Whenever someone new hears that I am a chef, I immediately get “I wish I lived at your house!” This is followed up by “I’d love to eat gourmet meals every night!” and “I’d be so much thinner/fitter/healthier if I lived with a chef, because you could make things I like healthier!” Read More…
Tag Archives: Personal Chef
You never really understand how much you use your thumbs until you don’t have them. Well, I don’t, anyway. I’ve injured my left thumb, which is making typing a bit challenging. So, I’m going to give you the bullet-points and a pretty picture that has nothing to do with post, but which I hope will keep you distracted from the general lack of content!
-Garden update: Our tomatoes only did so-so this year. We got a great early crop, but the storm that knocked out our entire state also severely damaged many of our plants. We do have some late tomatoes that we’re force-ripening right now, hopefully before frost, and we’ll pick the rest of the green ones and store them. The leeks made it through nicely and will be harvested after the first frost. We’ll be cutting down the stalks on the sun chokes next week, and bringing in the first harvest of those, storing the remainder in the ground and digging as needed. The rest of the kale and chard will be planted today, though it should have been done a few weeks ago. We’ll have to hold our breath and see if it grows.
-On the Menu is on hiatus this week, but will return next week.
-Continuing education. For those that ask about how to do what I do, one of the really important things is continuing education. Cooking is a skill that can be honed with practice, but to give the most to clients, staying up on the science of food and biology is important. In the next 6 months, I’ll be taking many of my continuing ed courses, including several classes on diet and nutrition, a physiology class, a pharmaceutical drug and interactions class, and a few others.
And, that does it for the day, as I take a break and ice my thumb.
As a Personal Chef, I cook for many people each year. Some for a short time, some for a longer time, some for health reason, some for personal reasons, some for time reasons, some just because they like having a Personal Chef. Clients move, have a situation change, or are done with their medical treatments and can resume their lives cooking for themselves (which is always the goal, really), and while they’re always missed, it’s great to see their lives moving on in a positive direction. Even more wonderful is when I hear from clients that used my services in the past, as recently happened when a former client commented on my Personal Chef Services page:
“Hi Shawn -
I never thanked you for what you did while I lived in Lynchburg. I broke my ankle, my mother suffered from dementia and you provided the most delicious meals for us. You even have me now eating mushrooms and olives, two things I would have never eaten. The creative way you cooked meals live with me today. I eat greek yogurt, cook quinoa and steel cut oats and that is all because of your influence. Thank you for helping us.” -Gretchen
It’s these things that keep the smile on my face, that keep me loving my career. Helping someone discover new foods, change their eating habits, or just make it through a difficult time makes my every day brighter. People often ask, , “Don’tyou get tired of cooking everyday?” And the answer is that some days, as with any career, I’d rather be doing something else; but overall, there’s nothing I’d rather do than this.
Comparison Shopping, Part 1
Now that you’ve planned your meals, accounted for “orphan” ingredients and leftovers, have the cooking under control, what do you do next? You start comparison shopping.
Put a calculator in your pocket or purse, and learn to read labels. Not just ingredient labels, but also pricing labels. There are some common things that can really rack up the grocery bill that aren’t necessarily obvious at first glance.
-Compare price by weight or volume, and not by the package. For example, when you’re comparing chips, look at the price per ounce. Packages are often not the same weight, even though they may be the same size, and that can make package pricing deceptive. Whey buying toilet paper, check the price per square or per foot (and, you will often have to convert from one to the other, because stores have also gotten wise to this trick).
-Keep in mind that larger sizes are not always cheaper. We’ve all been told to “buy in bulk,” because it’s cheaper; and, at one time, it usually was. Stores have caught onto this, however, and often the larger package is more expensive (Wal-Mart is notorious for this, and many people don’t catch it). Often, if a smaller size is on sale, it will be cheaper ounce-per-ounce than the larger size. This happens with brown rice at our local Kroger about once a month.
-Compare apples-to-apples on ingredients. If one item is cheaper, make sure you peak at the ingredient label to see if fillers are the reason.
-Unless you, and the rest of your family, measures everything fairly precisely, don’t fall for the “1 sheet/ounce/drop is equal to 5 regular sheets/ounces/drops.” If your kids use half a foot of toilet paper, buying thicker toilet paper isn’t likely to make them use less unless you’ve got a pretty good system for monitoring that (which I am sure some of my readers would love to know about, please share).
-Don’t assume generics are cheaper. Often, they are; but, if a name-brand is on sale, then sometimes they are not.
Check in Wednesday for another installment!
- Heading Out on Your Own – Day 27: How to Shop for Groceries (artofmanliness.com)
I came across this recipe on Oregonlive.com while searching for dairy-free vegetarian recipes. I have to be careful how much soy I eat (naturally fermented is fine, but processed is a whole different beast), but I do love tempeh and figured I’d treat myself; so, it went on this week’s menu.
Reading the recipe, though, I thought “why in the world would you slow cook the tempeh without the miso, curry paste, and coconut milk? ” So, I didn’t. In my head, there were mushrooms in this dish, too, so I put about half a cup into the crockpot at the start of cooking. Also, I was pretty sure I wanted more sauce and a bit more miso, because I love the stuff, and a bit more kick than that small amount of curry paste would give. So, I doubled the coconut milk and tripled the miso and curry paste.
Those decisions made, I cooked the tempeh and the carrot mixture as per the directions, put them in the crockpot, then put everything else except for the frozen peas in and turned it on low for 6 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, I put in the peas.
It was fantastic. This is definitely going on our menu again. And, I’d definitely try it with chicken or beef, too. So, a win on the first meal of the crazy new schedule!
- On the Menu: August 26-Sept 1 (eclecticedibles.wordpress.com)
- Recipe: Thai Green Coconut Curry with Chicken and Zucchini – Recipes from The Kitchn (thekitchn.com)
- Thai-Indian Fusion Curry (in a slow cooker!) (thericealwaysboilsover.wordpress.com)
- Slow Cooker Red Chicken Curry (thefatcowrecipes.wordpress.com)
This is the vegetarian/piscean two weeks again, meaning no meat other than fish, and no dairy. This is also the week that Thadd went back to school, and I started some certification training on top of my other stuff; so, we knew we needed meals that would be reasonably quick, too.
In addition to all that, Thadd’s been having problems maintaining his weight with the two weeks of vegetarian foods (especially since we eat little in the way of simple carbs), and is pretty continually hungry. The reality has been similar for me, and I’m not looking to lose weight. We don’t eat processed foods, we have to be careful on the soy because it interferes with my adrenal medications, and it kills me to not eat cheese. On the other hand, my abs look awesome; but, I have to be very careful to not to lose much weight (about 3% of my body weight) or it messes with my medication dosages.
I’ll be honest, this new diet two weeks a month is difficult, especially on limited time. We’re not sure how it’s going to go, but, this is our stab at it for the first week of back-to-school and new work stuff. Wish us luck!
Sunday: Potato & Cauliflower Burritos, with sausage for Thadd. These have more carbs than I usually like, but it’s what we have time for tonight. And, they’re really yummy.
Monday: Slow cooker Thai Tempeh Coconut Curry. Tempeh needs wet cooking, in my opinion, to be good. Dry tempeh is…well, dry. I have to be really, really careful about soy; but, I can treat myself once in a great while, and this is that treat.
Tuesday: Ban Mi Sandwiches. Another tofu dish, but this one is okay. Non-GMO tofu locally processed at low temps by hand, which helps limit some of the things that interfere with the absorption of my medications. This is a vegetarian take on a Vietnamese street food that I’ve been wanting to try forever.
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Lentil & Kale Stew, with Bratwurst for Thadd. This is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, which bodes well. Again, a new one for us. While we eat a lot of meatless meals, we don’t tend to do a lot of meat-and-dairy-free meals, so I’ve been digging through recipes for the last few months.
Thursday: Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry. Indian is always one the top of my list of vegetarian foods to love!
Saturday: Lentil Sloppy Joes with Slow Cooked Baked Beans and Veggies. A vegan (yes, vegan) take on sloppy joes. I’ll see what I get for fresh veggies from the market, and I’ll make my own bakes beans in the slow cooker.
LUNCHES: leftovers. Vegetarian salads with chickpeas for protein. Tuna and egg salad.
BREAKFASTS: eggs, egg and veggie breakfast burritos, steel cut oats, fruit.
SNACKS: hardboiled eggs, roasted chickpeas, nuts, raw vegetables, fruit, olives, almond butter.
LUNCHES: Leftovers. Meat, tuna, and egg salad wraps. Frozen meals (we freeze lunch portions of leftovers, so we have some already in the freezer).
BREAKFAST: Breakfast casserole, sausage breakfast burritos, steel cut oats, yogurt, fruit.
SNACKS: Smoothies, nuts, milk, yogurt, fruit, olives, peanut butter, cheese.
- On the Menu, August 5-11th (eclecticedibles.wordpress.com)
Along with the many other things going on here (cleanup from the natural disaster, taking on some new job responsibilities, getting Thadd ready to go back to school), there have also been some diet changes. So, the On the Menu will look a little different a few weeks a month: no dairy, no meat other than fish. Not eating meat really isn’t terribly problematic for us, as we don’t eat a ton of it anyway; but, the no cheese…that’s hard. I love cheese, yogurt, milk, sour cream. We also have a herd share, which means Thadd gets a whole bunch of milk on my off weeks.
That said, it’s doing what it’s supposed to, and the dairy sacrifice is worth it (besides, let’s be honest here, I’m not fooling anyone into thinking I don’t totally make up for it on the weeks I can have dairy, right?).
On the Menu
Sunday: Tofu and veggie kabobs over wild rice, with mango chutney. Twin Oaks tofu is the only tofu I eat. I don’t eat much soy, but their stuff is fabulous: non-GMO, organic, hand-made. And so very, very yummy. We had a weekend guest, not a lot of time to put something complicated together, and a grill. So, I marinaded the tofu in tandoori paste, which was also brushed over the veggies after they were kabobed. It was a really good, light summer dinner.
Monday: Black bean patties with mango salsa, with mixed vegetables. I’ve got a fabulous recipe for these that is totally vegan, easy, and versatile. This batch I did with a whole lot of Caribean Jerk type spices, and topped it with a salsa of mango, oranges, red onion, garlic, lime, avocado, and jalapeno. We used some extra veggies from last night as a side.
Tuesday: Cajun swai, served with sliced tomatoes and green beans. Thadd’s night to cook! We’ve got some tomatoes from the garden to use up, and green beans are in season.
Wednesday: Vegetable Chickpea Korma. A quick Indian dish with lots of fresh flavors, this takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare (unless you want rice for it, in which case it takes however long your rice cooker takes ). I’m putting it over greens, because rice is already on the menu once this week, as are rice noodles (possibly_.
Thursday: Thai Almond Noodle with Shrimp. Ideally, these will be made with cellophane noodles, but it’s possible they’ll be made with rice noodles, depending on what I can find. It’s almonds instead of peanuts because, as I mentioned a while back, I am apparently developing something of an intolerance to peanuts. Fortunately, I love almonds and they make a great Asian-style sauce.
Saturday: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos. These are really easy to make (the beans will be done in the slow cooker earlier in the week), good protein and fiber, filling, and great even without the cheese or sour cream. There will, however, be avocado and fresh salsa!
I haven’t done breakfast and lunches in a while, but since the new diet has started, I’ve had a few questions about what I eat for these, so I’ll share this week. Unlike dinners, we don’t plan specific days for these meals.
LUNCHES: Leftovers, primarily. Tuna salad on greens. Egg salad on greens (I eat a lot of eggs these two weeks). Almond milk smoothies on hot days when I don’t feel like eating.
BREAKFASTS: Eggs with a variety of stuff (peppers, homemade mushroom pate’, onions, salsa, etc., in a variety of combination). Almond and/or coconut milk smoothies. Toast, on rare instance.
SNACKS: Roasted almonds, hard-boiled eggs, fresh popcorn in coconut oil w/various spices, fruit, hummus, raw veggies, seeds of all kinds. Probably some other stuff I am forgetting.
If you’re on a special diet, how do you cope? Do you plan your meals?
Reducing Food Waste: Part 2
II. Make a detailed grocery list.
Planning also keeps you on track with your purchasing. It starts with meal planning, and continues with making a detailed grocery list. If you have a plan and stick to it, far fewer “orphan” ingredients make their way into your refrigerator only to spoil. If nothing on your plan calls for celery, there’s no need to buy it. Stick to the list.
Your grocery list should account for all your food needs for the duration between shopping trips (with the possible exceptions of things like fish that don’t hold well and need to be purchased within a day or two of consumption). More trips to the store equals more money out on unnecessary items that are often wasted.
Grocery List Tips:
-List the quantities needed right on the list. If you need two peppers for the week, list 2 peppers.
-Organize your list by type of item or isle. For example, put all your fresh produce in the same area of your list, all your meat in another, all your dairy and eggs in another. This will not only make your shopping more efficient, it will keep you from wandering back through isles repeatedly and seeing something you “just have to have” even though it’s not on the list.
Stay tuned for the next update on saving money on the grocery bill by reducing food waste!
- Sensible Shopping: Grocery Lists (revisited) (todaysnest.typepad.com)
Reducing Food Waste, Part 1
I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a series of posts about how to cut your food bill without sacrificing healthfulness, and am finally getting around to it. Today we’re going to start with reducing food waste.
Americans throw away 1/3-1/2 of the food produced in this country. Food waste for most homes is 25-50%, depending on which study you look at. If your family spends $200 a week on food, and you’re throwing 25-50% of it away, you are essentially throwing out $50-100 a week. There are myriad reasons this is bad, from costing money to just being plainly a bad use of resources to having far more environmental impact than we’d need to if we were more careful consumers. But, what we’re concerned with here is the cost.
I. Plan your meals.
I harp on this continually, I know, but it really is one of the biggest ways to cut down on food waste. How many times do you buy something with the best intentions, then not use it before it goes bad? How often do you need only a part of the total quantity of an ingredient for a recipe, and have nothing to do with the remainder? Planning meals allows you to deal with these issues, and can dramatically reduce food waste.
When you do your meal plan, look at your recipes and ingredient lists to determine if you’re going to have leftover ingredients. Does that bean salad recipe call for only half a can of chickpeas? What are you going to do with the other half? Well, if you’re planning the meals, then you can use them later in the week in a different way, such as hummus or as an addition to a stew, instead of letting them sit in the refrigerator to go bad.
When I mention “planning meals” to people, I get so many excuses that my head starts to hurt: “Oh, but we prefer to eat spontaneously!,” “But, I don’t have time!” Etc. If you don’t want to save money on groceries, don’t plan. But if you do, you’ve got to stop making excuses. You either spend the time making the plan or you spend the money throwing food away. You either realize that eating spontaneously is causing food waste (and often a huge eat-out budget, as well) and learn to eat in a slightly more planned way, or come to grips with the grocery bill as is. Changes don’t happen without changes.
We’re going to talk more again, later, about other ways meal planning will reduce your food bill. All around, it’s the best tool in for frugal and healthy cook’s tool box.
Tomorrow, more on how to save money by reducing your food waste!
- Online Meal Planning Services (eclecticedibles.wordpress.com)