Comfort Food Coma with Banana Pudding

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of preparing 6 complete meals + a dessert for a new client. During our initial meeting we discussed they types of meals she and her family enjoyed. I was thrilled to learn they enjoyed meals of Pot roast with vegetables, Fresh Green Beans with Ham Chunks & a side of Buttermilk Cornbread, Chicken & Dumplings, Lasagna, Smothered Pork Chops and Sausage Gravy over Buttermilk Biscuits and for dessert, a big bowl of Banana Pudding.

Green Beans with New Potatoes and Chunks of Ham and a side of Buttermilk Cornbread / Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Cooked Cabbage / Chicken & Dumplings with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Honey Glazed Carrots / Smothered Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy / Country Sausage, Milk Gravy and Buttermilk Biscuits / Old Fashioned Banana Pudding with Graham Crackers

24 servings of Comfort

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to prepare colorful, summer salads and play with recipes to make them conform to special diets… But… My country heart loves milk gravy bubbling in a cast iron skillet so you can imagine my delight when I received her first menu choices.

As soon as I read the list I called to my husband, “Honey! I’m going to love cooking for this family. They eat REAL food!!”

All kidding aside, I love my job. Being able to provide families with the kind of meals my family also enjoys just makes it that much better.


 It’s like we’re all sitting at the table together.

Okay. I can’t tease y’all with a menu like that and not give out a recipe.

Here’s my Nanny’s from scratch Banana Pudding recipe. A staple at every get together.


Something you need to know – Don’t get hung up on exact measurements. Except when she was baking cakes, Nanny never really measured ingredients. She didn’t own a set of measuring cups or spoons. Amounts were based on how it looked, felt and tasted. If she needed a larger pudding she simply spooned out a little more cornstarch and poured in a little more milk.

She didn’t write down recipes for me. Instead I had the privilege of watching her cook. After she suffered a stroke and could no longer come to the kitchen, she (sort of) told me how she made a dish.

My Nanny

My Nanny

When I asked her how to make Banana Pudding, it went something like this;

Nanny: Get my puddin’ pan (Yes, I knew which one she was referring to) and put in about a scoop and a half of sugar.(The red plastic scoop in the sugar canister)
Put in a good spoonful of cornstarch. (Translation – use the spoon she used when cooking & heap it up) 

Enough salt for 2-3 eggs (2 large or 3medium size eggs. We kept chickens so there wasn’t a constant size in the “icebox”) 

Stir the lumps out and put in about a quart or so of milk. When it’s ready (thickened), put in a lump of butter and two caps of vanilla. (She used the lid to the vanilla extract bottle as a measuring device. 1 cap = about ½ teaspoon) 

There were no official amounts or directions given. It was assumed I knew how to take it from there.

For the rest of the world, who has no idea how large the scoop was or what size her cooking spoon may have been, here’s a list of ingredients and directions.


Yields 6-8 servings


  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8  teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2/3  lb graham crackers (2 sleeves)
  • 3-4  very ripe bananas
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • tablespoons butter

Equipment needed:

  • 2 quart Heavy bottom sauce pan
  • Large Spoon
  • Whisk
  • Paring knife for slicing bananas
  • Dry Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Small bowl (for cracking eggs)
  • Large Bowl for pudding


  • In a heavy bottom pan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt until no lumps remain.


  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  • Slowly stir in milk and place over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
  • As the pudding heats and thickens, it is very important to make sure you are stirring continually, all the way to the edges and side of the pan so you don’t end up with lumpy pudding.
  • I use a spring whisk like this one.   spring-whiskIt does a fine job of getting the flat bottom and 90o edge of skillets and pans.
  • Continue cooking and stirring until it just starts to boil and has a thick pudding consistency.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and butter.


Start with a layer of graham crackers then sliced bananas, ending with a layer of warm pudding spooned on top. Repeat until you’ve exhausted your supply of pudding.

Nanny's Banana Pudding Bowl

Decorate the top with sections of graham crackers if desired.

Using Nanny’s Banana Pudding Bowl, (Yes, that’s it pictured above) I get 3-4 layers depending on how many and how large my bananas are that day.

Note: Some like to top Banana Pudding with meringue. If you choose to do so, layer your pudding in an oven-proof dish that can withstand the heat of baking the meringue.

Good to know – You can use this recipe to make a Banana Cream Pie. Simply reduce the amount of milk to 3 cups.

Place sliced bananas in a prepared graham cracker crust. Gently spoon on a thin layer of filling  Add a layer of thinly sliced bananas. Top with remaining filling. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming and refrigerate until firm. Top with whipped cream and serve.

Now, excuse me while I have a bowl of warm Banana Pudding! Mmmmmmm

As a side note, today is the 39th anniversary of my dear, Great-Grandmother, Nanny’s passing from this earth to the arms of our Lord. I know she would be pleased that I’m still making her pudding in her bowl.  I love you Nanny heart1

Nanny’s Dumplings – Food for the Gods

I was cruising facebook when a noticed a post a friend had made in which he asked the question, “What was your favorite meal that your grandmother made?”

Most responded with fried chicken, chicken & dumplings or beef roast.

I wasn’t surprised.  I too was blessed to have tasted the world’s finest fried chicken, dumplings and beef roast, all lovingly prepared from scratch.  Above all, my favorite had to be Nanny’s dumplings.

Her flour was kept in a huge canister kept under the kitchen sink. This thing easily held 50-lbs of flour. In the top sat a flour filled white granite pan with an emerald green rim. This was the little pan she used to dredge meat and make her delicious dumplings.

Because it sat under the sink for (probably) 40+ years, the bottom rusted away. However I still have that little granite pan and use it to make dumplings with my grandson.


Nanny’s Dumplings

One of my favorite memories is of me standing in a kitchen chair, next to the table,”helping” her make dumplings.

She would fill sifter with flour and let me turn the little red wooden knob on the side. At some point she would take over and fill the pan with fluffy flour. Nest, she made a well in the center and poured the required amount of salt, from the blue box, into the palm of her cupped  hand* and dumped it in.

As she turned to retrieve a cup of water from the sink I would poke my fingers in the pan. She’d pour the icy-cold well water in and stir it around with two fingers. Never just one. Never three. Two fingers carefully stirring the water into the flour, incorporating a little more with each revolution until it formed a spongy ball.

Once she was satisfied with the mixture, she instruct me to sift a bit of flour onto the center of the 100+yo breadboard that once belonged to her husband’s grandmother. Now it was time to knead the dough just enough form it into a soft ball that didn’t stick to the board.

At this point she would turn to check on the chicken stewing in the pot, put the canister and flour pan back under the sink… anything to give me time to poke the soft dough and get a feel for how soft/firm the dough should be before it was rolled out into a huge sheet that completely covered the board. As she’d turn to grab the old butcher knife I knew this was my last chance to poke the dough one last time.

The dough was rolled to about 3/8″ thickness, peppered liberally and sliced into 1-1/2″  ribbons then sliced diagonally into long diamonds. She’d drop these, one at a time, into a big pot of bubbling chicken broth thickened with a flour-water slurry.

(* Nanny placed her index finger in the center of her slightly cupped palm and explained to me this equaled 1 teaspoonful. Her thumb equaled1 tablespoon and 3-fingers was about 1/4 cup)

4+ cups all-purpose flour (+ more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 cup cold water
1 gallon boiling chicken stock with or without chicken meat included.

That’s it.

That’s the entire recipe for Nanny’s Dumplings



After I got over the wave of nostalgia, I started wondering what the grandchildren of future grandparent’s to be will say?

“I loved the way grandma ordered pizza, with extra cheese, on her old iphone”.

“No one could pull into a McDonald’s drive-thru like my Nanna”

Maybe they will gush over how she always allowed them to open the blue and yellow box of Mac & (fake) Cheese she served with microwaved hotdogs.

Life Changing Scones!

Warning: This is a very long post because the recipe included is very, very detailed.

A few days ago, I had the honor to prepare a lovely Galentine’s Day brunch*  for 25 powerful business ladies. The guests were just arriving as the aroma of apple-wood smoked bacon filled the air. In no time, the scent of garlic and fresh basil would join the festivities.

On the menu:


Spinach and Cherry Tomato Mini Frittatas with Fresh Basil Chiffonade
25 made with egg whites only
25 made with the whole egg.

Asparagus Tips Wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon

Gluten Free Mini Raspberry Tarts topped with Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Berries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Date & Nut Balls rolled in Coconut Snow

Cranberry-Orange Scones
Served with Clotted Cream, Whipped Butter and Cranberry-Orange Marmalade

Custom Designed, Decorated Sugar Cookies
(Provided by Miss Laura’s Cookies)

Strawberry Ice

I felt the menu was just right for the occasion; A nice mix of traditional brunch favorites with a dab of Valentine’s Day sweetness tossed in. However, the star of the party was, without question, the Cranberry-Orange Scones.

A few of the guest had been to previous events where my scones were on the menu and could not wait until these were out of the oven. I don’t even know how many ladies made their way to the kitchen to inquire if they were ready yet. Okay, the oven mysteriously turning itself off did cause a 20-minute delay in getting them to the dining room, BUT come on! I’ve never seen so much excitement over a side item on the buffet.

Initially, I had planned on making 3 dozen. I wound up making 60 scones just to insure everyone enjoyed as many as they liked.

I’m not exaggerating. At the end, guests were coming into the kitchen asking if they could have a baggie to take scones home. When I remarked to my client’s assistant than I had never attended a party where the guests asked for a doggie-bag, she exclaimed, “Then you’ve never been to a party where your food was served!”
          – Maybe I need to start sticking around after the meal has been served.

The client remarked that at her next party, perhaps she should have boxes made available for scones to-go.

I’ve never visited England or Ireland but some in attendance had. One lady remarked she lived in England for a year and enjoyed tea with scones every day she was there and mine are the very best she has tasted.
What a compliment!

I don’t mean to sound my own horn, but I do think the biggest difference in a so-so scone and a “Life Changing Scone”, (Yes, one of the guest actually called my scones “Life Changing”) is not so much the recipe as the technique.

I do not use a food processor.
I grate almost frozen butter directly into the flour mixture.

I never knead the dough.
I gently fold the dough upon itself 4-5 times.

I don’t use a rolling pin.
I gently pat the dough into a rectangle about ¾ to 1” thick and use a board scraper to cut them into triangles.

I don’t top my Cranberry-Orange scones with sugar or apply a sugary glaze, unless the client requests they be glazed..
Instead, I like to serve them with clotted cream, whipped butter and cranberry-orange marmalade which perfectly complements the flavor. If clotted cream is not available in your area, you can make your own (directions available on the web). Making clotted cream is labor intensive but well worth the effort.

Here’s the recipe I use:


Cranberry-Orange Scones



4 level cups All-Purpose Flour (I use King Arthur 100% organic All-Purpose Flour)
¼ rounded cup sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder (Be sure to check the expiration date)
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 ½ – 2 tablespoons Freshly Grated Orange Zest
¾ pound Very Cold Butter
4 Large Eggs
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup dried or 1 ½ cup fresh Cranberries —  If using fresh cranberries, be sure to sort, wash and pat dry before adding them to mixture

Egg Wash
1 Large Egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of Heavy Cream


1. Preheat oven to 400 F

2. Using a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and kosher salt. Use hands or stir with whisk to combine.


3. Grate orange zest directly into butter-flour mixture and fluff lightly with hands until zest is completely incorporated. If you’re adding fruit and/or nuts, do so now.


4. Grate cold butter directly into bowl of flour mixture a little (2-3 tablespoons) at a time.


5. Fluffing the butter into the flour with hands between each addition.


6. Beat 4 large eggs with 1 cup of heavy cream. Make a whole in the center of flour/butter mixture and pour in egg- and cream mixture. Using your hands, gently incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry just until it is well moistened. Batter will appear lumpy – that’s okay. I find if you use your hands instead of a spoon you’re less likely to over mix, causing  the scones to become heavy and tough.
7. Pour batter onto a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, parchment paper or the plastic side of freezer wrap. Sprinkle just enough flour on top to prevent your hands from sticking. Very gently, shape dough into a rectangle.

8. Lightly flour again and gently fold the dough over upon itself. Lightly flour any damp surface and repeat process 3-4 more times.

9. Shape dough into a long rectangle and allow to rest 3-5 minutes.

10. Cut dough down the center, with a floured knife, making two very long narrow sections. Depending on the size you desire, cut each long sections into 6-8 scones each** (12-16 total yield)


11. Place scones ½” to ¾” apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Lightly brush tops with egg wash.

12. Bake at 400  F for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving (If your guest can wait that long!)

13. Serve with your choice of marmalade, butter and/or clotted cream.

Scones are best eaten warm from the oven or at least, they should be prepared the day you plan to serve them. Depending on how large/small you choose to cut your triangles, this recipe can easily yield 12 huge or 20 small scones.

Don’t want that many? No problem!
Instead of reducing the recipe, go ahead and mix up a whole batch. Freeze any unbaked scones for later use. Just add an additional 3-5 minutes to the bake time.

Frozen scones are great to keep on hand for unexpected guest or to treat yourself. Because you don’t have to bake a whole batch at a time, you can have a hot, fresh scone every day with little effort!

Unbaked, they will keep well in the freezer for 1-month in a regular zip-top freezer bag. If you use a FoodSaver (R), they’ll keep in the freezer up to 6-months.

These were baked from frozen.

*Amy Poehier as fictional character Leslie Kope on NBC Comedy Parks and Recreation, “What’s Galentine’s Day? It’s only the best time of the year! Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style: ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst . . . plus frittatas.”

**To all the haters… Yes, I understand traditional scones are made with much less butter than this recipe calls for and many believe scones shouldn’t include any fruit (expect for the occasional current) .

I never said these were traditional scones.
They are “Life Changing Scones” 😀

You can find the recipe for Gluten Free Raspberry Tarts at

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Creamy Steel-Cut Oats

You promised yourself you were going to eat clean. You also resolved to eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Now, here we are, well into February, and you simply cannot stand the thought of another cold boiled egg from the fridge or one more raw apple when the morning temperature is hovering around 20 degrees.


How about a nice steaming bowl of oatmeal?

It's All Good Personal Chef Service

I see you making that face.

Well, if your idea of oatmeal is the gooey stuff that comes from little over-processed packets laden with artificial flavorings… I’d make that face too.

Allow me to introduce you to Steel-Cut Oats.



Also known as Irish Oats, Pinhead Oats and Coarse Oatmeal; Steel-Cut oats are the whole grain with just the outer husk removed before being chopped into two or three pieces. Because they have not been steamed or processed like rolled, quick or instant/microwave oats, they retain their nutty flavor and have a wonderful chewy texture.

If you’re like many who have become dependent on 30-second microwave meals, you may feel a little intimidated by anything that has to be cooked for 25-30 minutes. On the bright side, Steel Cut Oats hold up well to pre-cooking. I like to prepare a pot full on Sunday mornings and reheat portions during the week when I don’t have a lot of time.

However, once you’ve tasted these tiny health-bombs with their delightful nutty flavor and chewy texture, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been eating it all along.

I like to intensify the nutty flavor by lightly toasting the grain before adding the liquid.


Place a 1 ½ to 2 quart heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pre-warmed pan.


Once the butter has melted, stir in 1 cup of steel-cut oats along with ¼ to ½ teaspoon of kosher salt to taste. (I use closer to ½ teaspoon)


Stir often with a wooden spoon until slightly toasted. You’ll know its done when you smell a nutty aroma and the grain has darkened slightly in color.

Next, add 3 cups of boiling water to the oats and reduce the heat enough to maintain a bare simmer for 25 minutes. Do not stir at ALL during the cook time or the oats could breakdown.


After cooking for 25-minutes, gently stir in 1 cup of warm whole milk and continue cooking for an additional 7 to 10-minutes. Spoon into a serving bowls and add any toppings you desire.

Some of my favorite flavorings are:

Warm fruit compote.

Chopped fresh or home canned peaches

A tablespoon of dark brown sugar with a dash or two of cinnamon and a small handful of chopped nuts

A spoonful of homemade blackberry jam or strawberry preserves


Refrigerate leftovers for later use.

Reheat by placing desired amount in a microwave safe container and heating at full power, in 1-minute increments until desired temperature is reached. Oatmeal thickens the longer it rests after cooking. To thin, simply stir in a small amount of water or milk, after heating until desired consistency is reached.

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Hosting Your 1st Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

You’re all grown up.

You’ve already announced to your friends &/or family members that you’re hosing Thanksgiving Dinner at your house this year.

What were you thinking? You do good to zap a Hot Pocket without it exploding. How are you ever going to pull this one off without resorting to frozen pizza?

It’s all good. You have the internet.
Here’s a step by step guide for hosting a (mostly) pain free Thanksgiving Dinner.

As soon as possible you should:

1.) Make a menu
I understand it may sound elementary, but it really is important for you to write down everything you plan to serve along with any condiments. It’s so easy to remember you want to pick up a dozen yeast rolls and totally forget butter to serve with them. Gravy is another thing that’s easy to leave off the list. In your mind, you think of mashed potatoes and gravy as one item. In reality, they are 2 separate menu items, 2 separate recipes and 2 separate serving dishes you’ll need to provide.

Why make out a menu before you even invite your guest? It’s not unusual for people to ask what you plan to serve. This is especially true for those who have special dietary needs. They may have medical necessary dietary restrictions (diabetics) or have certain personal or religious beliefs that prevent them from eating something.

2.) Invite Your Guest
Remember: This is your event at your house. Do not feel obligated to invite anyone who brings drama.

Many new couples feel compelled to invite both families to holiday get togethers. Unless you had an arranged marriage or your families are already very, very comfortable with each other, DON’T DO IT! Choose one family for 1 holiday and the other for the next.

(Don’t ask me how I know)

At least 2 Weeks prior to T-Day

3.) Get an accurate head count.
Just because you invited 8 people doesn’t mean 12 people won’t show up on the big day. Before you buy that 20 lb Butterball, make sure everyone who said they would be there actually plan to arrive. It’s also a good idea to know in advance if any of your single friends plans to bring a date. Yeah, it happens.

Don’t forget about your guests kids. Don’t expect Chelsie & Charles to get a sitter for the day. Children typically go where their parents go on holidays. That includes your house.If you’re not comfortable with a 2-year old playing with your Star Wars collection – Don’t invite Chelsie & Charles because Little Chuckie will be tagging along.

If there will not be enough room at “The big table” to accommodate munchkins, plan to add the infamous kids table (complete with chairs) for the little darlings. If a highchair or booster seat is needed, it’s not rude to ask the parent to bring theirs. If you have carpeting, consider placing a large vinyl tablecloth on the floor, under the table area.
You’re welcome.

4.) Take Inventory

Make sure you have plenty of dinner plates, salad plates (if needed) dessert bowls, glasses, coffee cups, serving pieces, flatware, etc for every guest and menu item. This includes cloth or paper napkins &/or tablecloths for every table.

5.) Gather your recipes now.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving morning to bake your pumpkin pie only to discover you’ve lost your recipe. This is especially important if you’re using a family recipe. You may need time for Mom to find her copy of Grandma’s Banana Pudding recipe.

While we’re on the subject of recipes, this is not the time to try a new recipe you’ve never tasted. I don’t care how good it looks on Pintrest. Untested recipes can easily turn into a hot mess on a plate. If you really want to try something new, try preparing it ahead of time to see if (a) you like it as much as you thought you would. (b) it’s not 10x harder to prepare than you thought it would be.

One week before

6.) Cleaning Day

I know you plan to clean your home before the big day. While you’re at it, don’t forget to clean out your fridge and disinfect any coolers you may need for drinks, ice or overflow food storage.

7.) Make a List and Checking it Twice

Go over each and every recipe and make a list of all ingredients you’ll need. Check the cupboard and put anything you don’t already have on your grocery list. Don’t forget to check the expiration dates on your spices and baking needs. If you’ve had them over a year, toss them out and purchase new.

8.) Now is not the time to take your time

If you’re getting a frozen turkey, but it NOW. If you wait many more days you either won’t be able to find one the size you need or won’t have adequate time for it to thaw. While you’re at it, pick up any other non-perishable items still on your list.

Not sure what size turkey you need or how long it will take to thaw?
Go to for an accurate calculator.

9.) The day before:

Bake your pies, cakes &/or cookies. It’s perfectly all right to prepare many of your side items and reheat or finish them in the oven while your turkey is resting. If you’re making candied yams, follow all steps up to adding the marshmallow topping. Same goes with green bean casserole. Prepare everything up to adding the onion topping and finish it just before dinner is to be served. Many salads can be prepared ahead of time as well.

With good planning, you’ll have plenty of time to visit with your guest and not be a hot mess in the kitchen.

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Yes! I have a card.

Yes! I have a card.

Less than a year ago I decided to quit a job where I had worked for the past 7+ years to open my own business. If that’s wasn’t frightening enough, I was starting a type of business few people, in this area, had ever heard of. I was going to be a Personal Chef.

When I chose to turn my back on the corporate world (and a steady paycheck) I had already missed 3+ months of work due to a recent surgery. Now I was about to embark on, most certainly, many more months of zero income.

When I told friends of my plans, I could see doubt in their eyes. Okay, it didn’t help that I first had to explain to them what a Personal Chef did as well as who in the world would want to hire someone to prepare a week’s worth of meals. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on how such a business could fail. Even my accountant had no idea such an industry existed and questioned my ability to find clients. The only thing I didn’t hear, from anyone was, “I didn’t know you could cook”.

None of that mattered. In my heart I knew I could do this. I also knew being one of very few Personal Chefs in the area meant I would be established before the market became saturated.

Starting any new business is difficult. Starting a new business in a new (to this area) industry is even harder. Not only did I need to get my name out there, I needed to convince potential clients that they needed my services. So… I took to the internet.

I had a little experience with HTML and understood the importance of Keywords. Within a few days, I had a rough website up and running and established a business email account. It wasn’t much but it was enough to get me found online. Within a few weeks I gained my first customer! It didn’t take long for me to realize, “This is really happening.” and “I have a business!!”

In a few short months I’ve gone from wondering when my phone would ring to being booked several weeks out with repeat clients and those with weekly standing appointments. I’ve even had to start not scheduling clients on certain days so I have time off. (Another perk of being self-employed)

What a difference a year makes!

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What is a Healthy Diet to You?

It's All Good Personal Chef Service

We’ve all heard the saying, “Never discuss politics or religion”. If you’ve not noticed by now, you may want to add “Healthy Diets” or food in general to that list.

As a Personal Chef I have met and cooked for all types of people from all walks of life. From the health conscious 30-something Vegan who only wants local grown, non-GMO, organics to the 86yo heavy smoker whose truly believed a spoonful of peanut butter with a handful of pills was an acceptable breakfast. Oh, and “Slim-Jims” count as a protein! The only thing that’s constant is their rock-hard opinion on what constitutes a healthy diet.

Peoples beliefs about what they should or should not eat is almost like a religion. They are steadfast in their opinion and there’s no use trying to discuss other possibilities with them. We won’t even talk about how some folks allow their politics to influence their grocery selections.

As I’ve stated in nearly every post, I’m not a dietitian, medical professional or trained nutritionist. It’s not my job to change your idea of what a healthy diet should be. (As if my opinion would matter.) I simply provide a service and prepare what my clients request.


No amount of common sense should be required to understand, skipping breakfast all together or having nothing more than 1/2 cup of raw carrot juice or a double-shot espresso probably isn’t good for you.

Did you skip school the day nutrition was discussed?
Have you never considered those who study human dietary requirements may have a slightly higher level of knowledge of what’s required to keep your brain firing and heart pumping?

What made you think it was okay to feed your 9-year old bread sticks, canned cheese-like goo, fried okra and grape soda for dinner?
Do you really believe that “meal” = a starch, dairy/protein, vegetable and fruit or was it just easier than baking a chicken breast and peeling a few vegetables? (btw, this mother was a 6th grade school teacher and she honestly thought grape soda contained real grape juice.)

On the other end of the spectrum is the person that’s so convinced that everything that’s not home-grown with filtered rain water is going to kill them. They take to heart every facebook ad that reads, “The 7 Foods You Should Never Eat”, “What Big Pharm Doesn’t Want You To Know” and anything Dr. Oz has been paid to endorse this week.

I understand you may not be diabetic, have heart disease, be overweight or malnourished, now, but how long will you be able to stay that way if you continue eating nothing except high carbs and fatty foods?

I don’t profess to have all of the answers to what’s the perfect diet for each individual. But, please, give some consideration to including lean protein and fresh produce in your diet. I’d hate to lose another friend, family member or client because they only wanted to consume their favorite foods or put such strict dietary restrictions on themselves they spend most of their time stressing over their next meal.

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You Are What You Eat

Clean Eating

Healthy Food

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”, but how many of us have really given that phrase much thought?

People choose to employ a Personal Chef for many reasons. It may be there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the menu planning, shopping and preparation required to place a meal on the table. Some are not physically able to do all the work and cleanup involved. For others it’s a choice. They could do what’s necessary but choose to gift themselves with the luxury of more time and less stress.

Unlike many Personal Chefs, I don’t design a menu plan for my clients unless requested. I allow them to choose whatever they want. I built my business on a menu complied mostly of Comfort Food. For many, Comfort Food is anything that brings to mind childhood memories and happier times. For others it’s food that makes them feel content and in control. Whatever your definition, Comfort Food doesn’t just taste good. It feels good!

I’ve noticed time and time again, those who employ me out of need often select foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates. Popular requests are Chicken & Dumplings, Buttermilk Biscuits and Smothered Pork Cops. Clients who hire me because they would rather not spend a large portion of their day in the kitchen, don’t want highly processed quickie dinners from the supermarket or dread the thought of one more restaurant meal often choose healthier items such as Pineapple Chicken, broth based soups and meat-free entrées.

This got me to wondering; does high stress kick into to overdrive a carb & fat craving or does it simply trigger the desire for food we enjoyed at happier times in our lives? Admit it, when you were a child, high on your list of favorite foods was probably mac & cheese, fried chicken nuggets and some sort of sweet treat such as cake or pie.

When we’re stress-free we are more open to trying new things and flavors. When you’re feeling energetic and excited about life aren’t you more apt to go for the healthy salad at lunch instead of the burger & fries? Now, I’m not a member of the medical profession, a researcher or behavior therapist but I can’t help but see the correlation.

If you are what you eat, do healthier meals = high energy, a positive mental attitude and self confidence while a diet consisting mainly of cheesy-puffs, burgers and donuts equates depression and poor physical health?

Maybe it’s not what you eat – but what’s eating at you.

All I know is what I see in myself. When I started a more “Clean Eating” diet, my whole attitude changed. I feel more energetic, have lost weight, lowered my cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

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It’s All Good Personal Chef Service isn’t Just for Dinner

It;s All Good Personal Chef Mixed Meal Option

Multi Meal Package

Some of my clients know exactly what they want, how they want it prepared and stored. Others, for lack of a better term, are lost. All they know is they need help.

I recently received a call from a family who was suffering with a mother who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. In a few short weeks, she went from being a vibrant, energetic lady who had the world by the tail to someone who needed 24-hr care.

Suddenly, arrangements had to be made for others to do all the things Mom had always taken care of.
A housekeeper was hired to change the bedding and clean the house every week. Home health aides and visiting nurses took care of Mom’s personal and medical needs. The only chore left to take care of was the one thing they never saw as a problem – How to provide nutrition for their ailing mother and the rest of the family.

Mealtime had become a combination of carry-out, home delivery, “Can-o-crap” and tasteless boxed entrées from the super market. Needless to say it didn’t take long for the family to discover their meals weren’t just unhealthy and unsatisfying; the convenient food they were eating was becoming very inconvenient.

Because Mom couldn’t be left unattended, quick trips to the market or to pick up carry-out could only happen when someone was available to stay with her. The only other option was to depend on others to shop and carry in food for them. Neither option was ideal

A former co-worker and friend learned of their dilemma and hired me to do several cooking sessions. The family had never heard of a Personal Chef or had any idea such a service was available, but they were excited to give it a try.

For the first cooking session, they chose the following entrées and sides from my dinner menu:
Beef Stroganoff, Homemade Egg Noodles with roasted Brussel Sprouts
Swiss steak, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Zucchini
Chicken & Dumplings
Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce and a Fresh Apple Crisp

To say it was a hit would be an understatement. The family couldn’t remember when they last had a home cooked meal or fresh, made from scratch Dumplings and desserts.

While talking to the mother-in-law of the ill woman, I learned the family was running out of prepared dinners early in the week because they were eating them for more than one meal of the day. I suggested the next time I come to cook I prepare some breakfast and lunch type meals so they don’t have to rely on so many cans of soup and frozen pizzas..

I also learned, from lack of exercise, pain medication and poor diet, the ill woman had suffered from severe constipation. I quickly remembered a concoction my grandfather’s nurse had recommended called “Power Pudding”; A blend of equal portions of pureed prunes, apple sauce and bran. Taken with a full glass of water, it certainly provides the “power” needed to move things along. I offered to mix some up at my next session.

The next cooking session resulted in a bit of everything.
8-16 oz servings of Tuscan Chicken Soup
4 individual Chicken Pot Pies
1 quart Milk Gravy with Crumbled Sausage
18 Buttermilk Biscuits (can be made into breakfast sandwiches or covered with gravy)
4 servings Chunked Hash Brown Potatoes
1 lb thick sliced Bacon
1 Lb Turkey Breakfast Sausage
16 Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles
1 quart Stewed Maple-Apples as a waffle topping or side dish
8 oz Power Pudding

It;s All Good Personal Chef Mixed Meal Option

Multi Meal Package

There was more, but the family ate it before I could get the photos made 😀

Not photographed is a jar of Power Pudding. I added a little cinnamon and vanilla extract to make it a bit more palatable.

What started as me preparing a few home cooked dinners turned into a large variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items along with some mouthwatering desserts and healthier snacks.

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Cooking for Those Who are Taking Chemo or Radiation Therapy

Adocado Chocolate Pudding

As I mentioned in my last post
Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions
This post merely relays some of the complications my clients have experienced and dietary changes they have found to be helpful.

I am not a dietitian, nutritionist or member of the medical field. I am not suggesting any treatment for any disease or ailment. If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you should seek the advice of your physician who can recommend the proper action for your issues.

It can be difficult to cook a nutritious meal for those who are seriously ill.
People undergoing chemotherapy, radiation treatments and other intense medical procedures often suffer from severe side effects that impact their lives. Thankfully most if not all of these issues usually disappear completely once treatment has ended. These can include: Extreme nausea and vomiting, Sores in the mouth and throat, dry mouth, difficulty chewing food &/or swallowing both food and/or liquids. Some notice drastic changes in their sense of taste and smell, suffer from constipation/diarrhea and a host of other issues concerning their willingness or ability to eat a nourishing meal.

Again, if you experience any of these symptoms, I urge you to notify your physician and follow his/her directions.

Extreme Nausea and Vomiting –

  • Avoid dairy and cream base soups as well as fatty foods.
  • It may be helpful to “graze” or eat small amounts of food throughout the day instead of the typical 3-meals plus snacks. If you can’t keep down an entire sandwich, try ½ or even ¼ at a time.
  • Eat what sounds good. This may sound like a silly suggestion but many people get the mindset that eating nutritious meals will help them build strength and get to felling better faster. Well, it sounds good on paper… Truth is, for most folks, their favorite foods actually tends to stay down better than something they’re only consuming because they think it’s healthier.
    Unless you’re under orders from your physician, go ahead and make a meal off watermelon if that’s what sounds good to you. Fact is, cooler or cold foods tend to stay down better than hot or warm foods. So ditch the fat-free chicken broth and enjoy a Mock Mojito instead.
    Cook and freeze meals in advance of treatment to avoid cooking when you’re not feeling well. Or have someone else cook for you. Sometimes the longer you smell a food cooking, the less appealing even your favorite foods become.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Try cool beverages, such as water, unsweetened fruit juices, tea or ginger ale that’s lost its carbonation. Just as with eating, it may help to sip small amounts throughout the day, rather than larger amounts less frequently.
  • Pay attention to what smells trigger nausea for you and limit your exposure to unpleasant smells. Fresh air may help. Use paper plates if standing over a sink of hot dishwater bothers you. Tie your paper plate in a plastic grocery bag to avoid offensive odors from escaping the kitchen waste basket. If possible, have a friend or family member take out the trash to avoid strong odors from the trash can.

Sores in the mouth/throat & Difficulty chewing/swallowing

  • Eat soft, chilled food such as frozen yogurt, ice cream, puddings, pureed fruit and smoothies.
  • Again, eat small servings rather than large meals. The less you aggravate the area, the better.
  • Avoid spicy foods and those high in acid such as tomato, citrus & pineapple juice as well as salsa, spaghetti sauce and salad dressings containing vinegar.
  • Stay away from salty foods and hard candies. Salty foods cause more pain and hard candies can actually cut the inside of your mouth and tongue.
  • Carbonated drinks, alcohol and tobacco can cause pain if you have sores in your mouth or throat.
  • Cut your food into smaller bites so less chewing is required. Eat diced fruit and vegetables instead of biting into an apple or an ear of corn.

Dry mouth

  • Keep a glass of water within reach at all times and try to drink 8-10 cups daily.
  • Avoid foods that tend to stick to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter or soft bread.
  • Dry food will be harder to swallow. Moisten foods with broth, sauces, gravy or milk when possible.
  • Some find sucking on soft mints or sugarless gum helps.
  • Limit coffee, tea and drinks containing caffeine. Caffeine can cause you to become dehydrated and dry your mouth even more.

Changes in taste and smell

  • Try new foods and spices you’ve never eaten before. There’s a good chance you’ll find something you’ll like.
  • Do your best to eliminate cooking odors by using an exhaust fan, cooking outdoors or have food delivered so there are no cooking odors in the home.
  • Eat food that’s cold or at room temp.
  • Whenever possible, use glass cookware and plastic utensils to keep down metallic taste.
  • Rinse your mouth with salt water before meals to help neutralize bad tastes in your mouth


  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help replace those you have lost through diarrhea. Mild, clear liquids, such as water, clear broth, sports drinks such as Gatorade, or ginger ale, are best. If these drinks make you more thirsty or nauseous, try diluting them with water. Drink slowly and make sure drinks are at room temperature. Let carbonated drinks lose their fizz before you drink them.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day instead of 3 large meals.
  • Eat low-fiber foods such as white bread, white rice or noodles, ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruit without skins or seeds, yogurt, eggs, mashed or baked potatoes without the skin, pureed vegetables, chicken, or turkey without the skin, and fish.
  • Very hot or cold liquids can make diarrhea worse
  • Avoid coffee, tea with caffeine, alcohol, and sweets. Stay away from fried or greasy foods, too. They are irritating and can cause diarrhea and cramping.
  • Dairy products usually make diarrhea worse so avoid all but yogurt. It actually contains good bacteria your body needs.


  • Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen the bowels. If you do not have mouth sores, try warm and hot fluids, including water, which work especially well.
  • Check with your doctor to see if you can increase the fiber in your diet (there are certain kinds of cancer and certain side effects you may have for which a high-fiber diet is not recommended).
  • Try to get some exercise every day. You’re doctor can tell you the type of exercise that’s best for you.
  • You may come to a point when you stop worrying as much about nutrition and focus on just keeping something that can be eaten and kept down.
    In cooking for clients with chemo I’ve found there are no constants. Some find even the thought of food revolting and request a bland diet of oatmeal, boiled eggs and soda crackers with clear broth. Others actually seem to do better when they eat something with a little kick of cayenne or jalapeno pepper!

One thing that always seems to help is sipping a cold drink. Mint has long been used to quell nausea so how about trying an icy cold Fruity Mock Mojito?

For each drink Place 5 mint leaves and 2 thick slices of lime in the bottom of a martini pitcher and muddle (crush) with the back of a wooden spoon. This releases the juice from the limes and the oils from the mint leaves and lime peel.
For each 8 oz. drink add:
1 part (or ¼ cup) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 part (or ¼ cup) of your choice of fresh, non-citrus juice. Try pomegranate, watermelon, peach nectar or strawberry juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar or simple syrup
Fill the pitcher with ice and add 2 parts (or ½ cup) of your choice of chilled 7-up, Sprite, ginger ale, soda or tonic water.

If you find a cool drink soothes the stomach, you might try nibbling on other cool snacks as well. A nice fruit sorbet or smoothie is usually a safe bet. Don’t forget the old favorite, Jell-o. Love pudding but are having trouble with dairy on your stomach? Try this unusual recipe for non-dairy chocolate pudding from the Cancer Nutrition Consortium that’s packed full of healthy avocado. Yes, you read that correctly.

Avocado. Chocolate Pudding

2 avocados peeled and pitted
1 banana
½ cup cocoa powder
½ pitted dates that have been soaking in a bowl of water for at least 2 hours then thoroughly drained.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed
Transfer to individual serving. I like using 8oz jars with lids. They are easy to store and can be re-sealed if it turns out you’re not able to finish it in one setting.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions that may help others.