I’m on my soap box today.
Don’t be afraid to try new things especially if that thing is being prepared for you by a professional. This doesn’t apply just to chefs but for the purpose of my rant today it does.
In my line of work you cannot get offended when someone critiques your food because it’s just food and they are not critiquing you as a person or your life choices. However, it’s still easy to feel offended because of all the hard work that has gone into a dish or a dinner to please a client(s). I have discovered in my short tenor as a professional chef that chefs are some of the most confident people in the world. You have to be because they are out there in the world confident that the food they are preparing and serving is better the then next chef. Who takes risks like that? When you think about it a chef will take this risk almost daily. Whether it’s opening a new restaurant, creating a nightly special or changing your menu with the seasons a chef puts him or herself out there all the time. So, it can be frustrating when clients and diners won’t even try the new thing you are so eager to prepare for them.
A chef has to stay competitive and confident to stay in business. Innovation is one way a chef will compete in the restaurant market. Innovation can push boundaries and lead diners on an odyssey to try new and amazing food. The diner in turn has to be open to trying new creations. A diner who is open to trying different types of cuisine or a twist on the classics is a chef’s best audience. Without these innovations we wouldn’t have movements like molecular gastronomy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_gastronomy or the slow food movement to take us back to our food roots http://www.slowfood.com/international/1/about-us?-session=query_session:499978FC0efe70D1F6hh98BBA11A Without an eager open audience some of the best cuisine in the world would be lost to us. Think back 10-15 years ago what was the most popular condiment in our refrigerators? Ketchup. Today the top condiment is mayonnaise but what is interesting is that the fastest growing condiment is hot sauces like “El Tapatio” and “Siracha” “The US hot sauce market has grown by 150% since 2000, which is more than that of BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard—combined.” Robert A. Ferdman and Ritchie King ” Quartz June 2014″. This trend is partially attributed to large immigrant populations like Asians and Latinos. These influences have inspired chefs to create flavor profiles that you may not be familiar with but if you stretch your palate the reward can by quite satisfying. It can open doors to experiences and maybe learn something about kitchen science and food customs of different cultures.
Being open to new experiences can open your world view. Take a risk the next time you go out to eat. Go eat at a new place, take the advice of your server and order the specialty of the house or purchase different condiments or vegetables the next time you’re grocery shopping.
You might surprise yourself as you begin your own path down a food odyssey.
– Chef Natalie
Hello and happy Saturday!
Today I have a super simple recipe that will add a little color and nutrition to your meals.
Beets are low in calorie and have vitamins like B6 and trace minerals that are so important to our health. Plus, they will not break the bank. Beets are a considered a spring vegetable in more temperate climates which means now is the time to eat them. I like to cook beets for my clients and keep them pretty much as is, meaning, I don’t make a “dish” I simply roast them, peel the skin and chop and store in the fridge. This gives my clients the opportunity to take the beets to other places like on top of salads with a little chopped garlic, or mixed up with some orzo pasta, or just plain and eaten as a snack.
What I like best about this recipe is that it always surprises people who thought they didn’t like beets. I think that is because most people have tried the ones out of a can or boiled to death. What I like about this application is that it brings out the natural sweetness of the beet and makes for a nice balanced food.
• 1-2 lbs. red beets
• Aluminum foil
• Baking sheet
1. Wash beets in cold water ensuring that all the dirt is rinsed away. Cut the top and bottom off of each beet (north and south pole).
2. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position. Heat oven to 450*
3. Tear off sheets of aluminum foil for each beet, about six inches long depending on how big your beets are? Wrap beets in foil, with the foil gathered and twisted at the top. Tear off sheet of foil or use parchment paper to line your baking sheet. Place the beets on a baking sheet and place in hot oven.
4. Roast beets 40-50 minutes, checking at about the 30 minute mark to see how far they have come along. I usually us a knife or a fork and stab the foil packet to check. Once you can puncture easily through the foil into the beet, take them out of the oven.
5. Let cool about 10 minutes before opening the packets. Once the packets are open let the beets stand until cooled to the touch.
6. Take two paper towels and peel of the skin of the beet. They should rub right off. This process will leave your fingers bright red but don’t worry it washes right off. Once your beets are peeled chop and enjoy.
Today I have an easy, inexpensive recipe to help you all keep your new years resolutions. One way my husband and I try to eat more healthy is to prepare one vegetarian meal a week. Now we aren’t perfect about this goal but we try. Enjoy.
Black Bean Tacos – serves 6
– 1 Tbs EVOO
– 1 onion, chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 package taco seasoning
– 1 (15.5oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 2 plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 small, ripe avocado
– salsa of your choice and/or Pico de Gallo
– small container light sour cream
– small package corn tortillas
1) Heat oil in alarge non-stick pan over medium-high heat
2) Add onion, garlic and taco seasoning cook about 2 minutes, until onion is softened. Stir in tomatoes and water. Cook until tomatoes wilt and water evaporates.
3) Warm tortillas and fill taco shells
4) Garnish with salsa, avocado, and sour cream
— Chef Natalie
Good morning and happy holidays! Hopefully all of your holiday shopping and party hopping is going smoothly. There is nothing worse than feeling harried and stressed during the busy holiday season. I was talking to some friends and family after the Thanksgiving holiday and a few of them talked about the stress of getting the meal together and on the table in a timely manner. Some of my friends and family had 20+ guests at their holiday table and they were cooking ALL the food themselves!
That got me to thinking about planning and spreading the work around. As a chef – and even before I became a chef – I liked lists. I would write lists for all the tasks I had to complete at home, at my job, at the grocery store etc.
In many professional kitchens there are lists and productions schedules to ensure nothing is missing from the menu. These lists and/or schedules include information from ordering product, to prep kitchen tasks, to menu planning, to hot line prep, to staff meetings. Without this type of organization most restaurants, catering companies, or private chefs would never be able to deliver.
So, I would like to give you some of my personal tips to help organize your next party or Christmas holiday feast. I ALWAYS have a mental game plan whether I am preparing to cater a 60 person event or only dinner for a few friends. This helps ease some of the natural stress that will occur when hosting an event.
1. Make a budget – make sure to include drinks and any dishes or serve ware you may need to purchase and any decorations you might want.
2. Plan your menu from appetizers to dessert
3. Do any recipe research you may need. You can pick something that will stretch your cooking abilities, but be realistic!
4. Think about your ingredients – Are they easy to find? How much am I willing to spend? Do I feel comfortable cooking with these ingredients? Will I have to time to work with these ingredients before my big event? Honestly I don’t work with that many exotic ingredients because when it’s delicious no one will care- they will just want to eat more!
5. Figure how much of each ingredient(s) you will need to purchase and make sure you check your own pantry first! You don’t want to double purchase and then have to go back to the store to return items.
6. Make grocery list. Be sure to include quantities/weights!
7. Look for any dishes or prep that can be done ahead of time. I find it easy to break the list into 2 days of work to make each day not so long in the kitchen. Especially if some of your dishes can hang out in the fridge/kitchen for a couple of days (i.e. baking your dessert or an appetizer dip).
8. Make a list of what you want prepare first, second, third and so on. Honestly just making any kind of production list will help and ensure you don’t forget anything at the last moment.
9. I think the most important thing is to ask for help and ask your friends and family to bring courses to dinner. That way it takes some work off your plate and you get to try some dishes that can surprise and delight your guests.
I hope this helps and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
I know it has been a minute since I have shared any thoughts or recipes. I have been busy working on my craft and working on my health.
I have re-committed to writing once a month which is something I can accomplish each month. This month will be short and sweet. I have a fall/Thanksgiving Day recipe for you all to enjoy on these cold snowy days.
I hope you enjoy it and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
I would love to hear back from anyone who made this recipe. Enjoy.
Butternut Squash Soup
• 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1 onion, course chopped
• 3 lbs.’ butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into 2” cubes
• 5 cups low sodium chicken broth
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme
• pinch of nutmeg
• ½ cup heavy cream
• salt and pepper (I prefer white pepper for this recipe but black pepper will be just fine)
1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or a large stock pot over med/high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir in squash, broth, thyme and nutmeg.
2. Bring to a simmer (gentle boil), cover, and cook until squash is tender, 20-25 minutes.
3. Remove thyme sprigs and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If you are short on time and want fewer dishes to clean use an immersion (stick) blender until soup is completely smooth. *you will have silkier soup using a blender or food processor it depends on what consistency you want
4. Return soup to pot (if using a blender). Stir in the cream and bring to a brief simmer, then remove from heat season with salt and pepper (to taste). Garnish with a little more nutmeg to taste
*I would recommend using whole butternut squash as opposed to cubed packaged squash. It seems to lose a lot of flavor when it arrives already processed and packaged.
— Chef Natalie
As promised here is a bariatric friendly recipe this week. Now for those of you having gone through surgery listen to your body and your doctor you may not be ready to eat the ingredients in this recipe, yet but when you are ready I hope you all enjoy this dish. It’s super easy, super fast and hardly any chopping!
I really like this dish because it doesn’t really need rice I like to eat as is and it reheats beautifully.
Also, this recipe serves 4 but you can easily cut this recipe in half or substitute different types of ground meat.
Ground Beef Stir Fry
- 1lb lean ground beef
- 1 package shredded cabbage
- 1 package broccoli slaw
- 2 T minced garlic (for this recipe I like the stuff that comes in a jar)
- 1T minced ginger (again I like the minced ginger in a jar)
- 1 bunch green onion, chopped thin
- 1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
- 2t sesame oil
- Heat 12″ non-stick skillet to med/high heat. Add ground beef and half of the soy sauce breaking up beef as it cooks. Once thoroughly cooked (no pink) remove from pan and place on a plate.
- Return pan to med/high heat and add sesame oil. Once oil is heated (slightly smoking) add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant about 20 seconds. Add green onion and cook until softened about a minute. Turn heat down if garlic starts to brown.
- Add cabbage and broccoli slaw until wilted. Add remaining soy sauce, cook until some of the liquid has evaporated
- Add browned beef back to pan and heat through
- Serve with brown or white rice
*Feel free to substitute with different veggies, I like to add snow peas to mine or bean sprouts.
*Adjust seasoning as desired. I really like strong garlic/ginger flavor so I almost double my amount but I didn’t want to over load any of you if you try this recipe out. Same goes for the soy sauce.
*If you are cooking rice start cooking the rice first. This dish cooks quickly and it’s a bummer to have to wait for the rice to cook.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and I would love any feedback on this recipe. Sorry I don’t have any pictures this time and what I found on-line didn’t look quite appetizing to me. 🙂 I am a food snob after all.
Sorry it’s been such a long time since I last posted but writing hasn’t been far from my mind but there has been a lot going on and haven’t made the time to write. I need to recommit to writing but honestly with everything else I am committed to right now this blog has taken a back seat. But I can make the time and will do better in the future.
Anyhow things are continuing to progress and next week will be my three-month anniversary, which is crazy to think how fast the time has flown. I am eating all solid foods which has been a great transition but it has brought some of its own challenges. Emotional challenges I was surprised I had to work through. Basically I was feeling anxious about failing.
At about my six-week check I hit a plateau and which was close to the time I started adding new textures and ingredients to my ever evolving diet. I also lost about 50 lbs at this juncture. I wasn’t prepared to face a plateau at that point in my weight loss journey and it freaked me out to say the least. I mean I was following the plan to a T eating right and working out. So, when the scale didn’t reflect all the hard work I had been doing I was afraid that I was going backwards. And I never want to go back to where I was before January 8th, 2014. So, it kind of put me in a funk but not so much that I veered from the plan or working out but it was something I had to address. Which I did at my next support group meeting and with the therapist who works with bariatric patients at the center where I had my surgery. I am grateful for all the support and to be able to talk to with others who understand what I am going through. I was relieved to hear in my support group that I am not the only one who has anxiety about failing or that our journey wont be successful.
What I have learned from this is that I must have trust and have faith in the system which isn’t easy for most bariatric patients because before surgery other methods for successful and long-term weight loss never came to fruition. So, it’s hard sometimes to not be overly critical or feel anxiety about minor setbacks. The success in all of this is how I deal with these new pressures and stresses by leaning on my support system, whether that’s my husband, family, friends or other bariatric patients. The reality is food is no longer an option to deal with stress which is okay and very freeing in a way I never thought was possible.
I am going to have more setbacks and success and more work to do on myself physically and emotionally but now I feel good about my odds.
Thank you all of you out there who read this blog for being another facet of my support system.
p.s. I will have a new bariatric friendly recipe to post later this week.