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.

Cooking for Those with Dietary Restrictions

Chicken Feta Salad

Chicken Feta Salad

I just want to put this up front so there’s no confusion – I am not a medical professional, dietitian or nutritionist. I’m a Personal Chef who is employed by individuals to prepare meals for themselves, friends &/or family members.

Lately, I’ve been asked to prepare meals for more and more seriously ill, chemo and cancer patients.
Things become even more complicated when you have to come up with a menu for someone requiring multiple dietary restrictions. Such as: High Blood Pressure (Sodium Restrictions), High cholesterol (Low fat) Diabetes (low carbohydrate) Constipation due to pain medication (High Fiber) and Chemotherapy (Bland diet due to nausea)… The list can go on & on.

To complicate things even more, clients currently taking chemotherapy treatments can have a good appetite with no restrictions one day and be extremely nauseous and suffering from mouth sores, making it difficult to swallow the next.

If you or a loved-one has a medical condition that requires dietary restrictions, please, if your doctor has not already done so, ask to be referred to a Registered Dietitian. They are your best source for nutritional information. They can guide you to trusted web sites for everything from menu suggestions to recipes that are appropriate for your condition.

When I started my Personal Chef business, I knew I’d have clients on restricted diets. From working as a Pharmacy Technician, I knew the most prevalent health concerns, which can be controlled with diet are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. I scheduled an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to discuss how diet can affect “The Big 3” and how to accurately count calories, carbohydrates and fats in the foods I prepared. Next, I searched out recipes that not only tasted good but were good for you.

Whatever your reason for needing a restricted diet, the best thing you can do is broaden your taste in food.

Honestly, I went from not eating vegetable soup at all to getting second helpings of soups such as Garden Vegetable & Tuscan Chicken.

I thought I didn’t like fish prepared anyway but fried. I now have baked, roasted and grilled seafood every week.

I swore I didn’t like meat cooked with fruit. Pineapple Chicken and Key West Shrimp with Lime quickly became two of my favorite dishes.

Before, I never served broccoli or cauliflower unless it was swimming in cheese sauce. Spinach and other greens had to be cooked to death with a large glop of bacon grease. Quinoa? That stuff looked like bird food not people food.
All are now on a weekly rotation.

You see, I learned it wasn’t the food I disliked – It was the way it was prepared.

I don’t serve anything to my clients I’ve not sampled in my own home. For this reason, I’m constantly trying out new recipes which are low in fat, calories and carbs. Needless to say I’ve lost a LOT of weight while eating very, very well!

A recent check-up at my doctor also showed that in less than 7-weeks I lowered my A1C (blood sugar) a full point. I’m not diabetic but Type 2 does run in my family so lowering my levels now is a good thing. *My cholesterol levels were not so bad as to require medication, but they did need some improvement.

My total cholesterol count dropped from a slightly elevated 221 to 181 (Normal is <200) That’s a 40 pt drop in less than 7-weeks! Triglycerides have gone from 141 to 108 (Normal is 0-149) HDL was 50 and is now 54 (Normal >40)
LDL has moved from 143 to 109 (Normal < 130)

I credit my 33lb weight loss and change in blood sugar/cholesterol levels to healthier, cleaner eating. Let me stress, I am NOT on a diet. I’m not following any sort of commercial diet plan that tells me what I can and cannot eat or when to eat it. I am cooking healthier meals with fewer carbs, less fat, and practically no processed foods. About the only thing we eat that isn’t fresh, made from scratch, is cheese, Greek yogurt and some commercially prepared breadcrumbs now and then.

Bottom line – If you want to improve your health, lose weight and feel better, ditch the processed foods and expand your menu to include more fresh fruits and vegetables, less red meat. Cut out Canola, vegetable and other highly processed oils in exchange for pure olive, peanut and tree-nut oils.

Farmer’s Market Salad with Feta Cheese

Fresh Market Salad

My husband and I dearly love a cold, crispy salad for lunch on a hot summer’s day. What we don’t love is the restaurant prices and time it takes to go out for lunch. In my area, a “nice” Market Style salad with fruit and grilled chicken breast at a Fast-Food place will run you anywhere from $6.49 – $8.49. Of course you’re going to want something to drink with that so add another $2.00 to the tab. That’s at least $8.50-10.50 for a salad and drink, people!

If you’re like most people, you only get: 30 – 1:00 for lunch. By the time you leave the office and walked to your car you’ve already used up :05 – :10. Add to that the time it takes to fight traffic, stand in line, have your meal delivered and drive back to the office. If you’re really lucky you won’t be noticed walking in late.

Most of us already have a bag of mixed lettuce salad, fresh fruit and our favorite salad dressing in the fridge. Why not pack your own salad and save the time spent driving and standing in line doing something relaxing like feeding the ducks at the park, relaxing with your favorite book or scrolling facebook ;). The typical answer I hear is, “I don’t have time, in the morning, to pack a lunch.” Okay. I understand that. But why do you think you have to pack your lunch in the morning? For us, it’s much easier to pack our lunches the night before. This is especially true if we’re taking leftovers from that evening’s dinner or preparing a crispy salad.

My favorite salad is a combination of baby mixed greens, seasonal fruit with some chopped meat and cheese. Cold, leftover grilled chicken or crispy bacon is my first choice but any cooked meat you have in the fridge will do. Same goes with the cheese. I love the contrast of tangy feta with the sweet fruit but you can use whatever shredded or crumbled cheese you have on hand.

Farmer’s Market Salad
2-3 ounces of mixed salad greens (I like a combination of torn baby lettuce, cabbage or spinach and a grated carrot.)
¼ fresh apple – chopped
6-8 seedless grapes – halved
½ cup mixed fresh berries (Blueberry, raspberries and strawberries)
2 tablespoons chopped nuts of your choice (optional)
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
2 ounces cook meat of your choice – chicken, ham, bacon, smoked pork or leftover steak, diced
2 tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing
½ teaspoon Fruit-Fresh or lemon juice mixed with 3 tablespoons of water for tossing with the cut apples– optional

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I like to pack my salad ingredients, separately, in small containers and combine them when I’m ready for lunch. This prevents the meat and cheese from drawing moisture from the lettuce and the fruit will remain crisp. You may wish to toss your diced apple or sliced ripe pears with a little Fruit-Fresh or lemon juice mixed with water prior to storing in the refrigerator. The acid prevents the cut fruit from oxidizing (turning brown).

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What’s in my lunch bag? I usually pack a container of Greek yogurt to make a complete, balanced meal. Even if you have a refrigerator available at work, you may want to pack your lunch in a little soft side cooler with a couple of reusable ice pack or include a refreshing lo-cal drink by freezing a bottle of water with a little added lemon juice. Don’t forget a salad fork and napkin or you’ll be eating with your fingers and wiping that dressing off your lips with your sleeve. If I’m planning to eat at the park, I like to include a brightly colored kitchen towel to use as a tablecloth/place mat. (Because you KNOW that table is nasty!)

Dad’s Favorite Cake

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Around 30 years ago, The Evansville Courier & Press held a Holiday recipe contest. The grand prize was a $500 gift certificate from a local grocery and a $100 gift certificate for a local jewelry store. Being a young mother with a growing family I was more excited over the prospect of winning free the free groceries at Christmas time. – Keep in mind, my weekly 1980s grocery budget ran around $50 a week.

I went through all of my recipes and decided to enter my Super Rich Pound Cake recipe.
Traditional Pound Cake uses 1lb of butter. My version uses ½ butter & ½ cream cheese. I dressed it up for Christmas with beautiful red cranberries and topped it with a sprinkling of powdered sugar snow. Although the recipe was simple, the combination of sweet, dense cake with the tartness of the berries was a hit. I didn’t win the grand Prize but I did place 1st in the dessert category and took home $100 worth of groceries from Wesselman’s grocery and a $50 Rogers Jewelers gift certificate.

This simple but delicious cake became one of my Dad’s favorites and is his traditional “Father’s Day Cake”. Because Father’s Day falls around the same time my blueberry bushes are starting to produce I often substitute blueberries for the cranberries. The 4th of July is the perfect time to use 50/50 mix of blueberries & cranberries for a patriotic red, white & blue cake.

Extra Rich Pound Cake with Berries
Yields 16 servings

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 whole eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups of your choice of cranberries, blueberries or a combination of both
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 cup confectioners’ sugar and candied cherries &/or dried cranberries & blueberries for garnish – optional

1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

2. Sift together 2 cups flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture. Toss remaining flour with berries of your choice and nuts; fold into batter. Batter will be very thick. Spoon into prepared 10-in. fluted tube pan.

3. Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until cake tests done. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool on a wire rack. Before serving, arrange fresh or dried fruit on top and around the bottom. Dust top with confectioners’ sugar.