This past week for example, we had a 50th birthday celebration, that the birthday boy, Tod, threw for himself! How great is that, to give yourself a party and have it fabulously catered at well! Tod’s food choices were his all time favorites. I would call the menu “comfort foods delight”.
Pigs in a blanket, split pea soup, wedge salad, surf and turf, and chocolate molton lava cakes ala mode! As you can imagine the guests were delighted and full!
We also catered a 70th birthday party at a beautiful home in Palm Desert, which was indoor/outdoor, always a gamble here in the desert, in December. But we lucked out with an unseasonably warm night .
Passed Hors d’oeuvres, “Steak House” station at the grill, and Tuscan station in the dining room, gave both meat eaters and vegetarians plenty of choices. Dessert was a mouth watering display of assorted petite pastries, always a favorite.
Not much rest this month for myself and staff, but it is always so great to hear rave reviews from our clients and friends!]]>
I was thrilled to get a call from the new Sacks Wellness center in Palm Desert. I had met Dr. David Sacks several times last season when he would come to Jennifer’s Kitchen for lunch. At 75 years young, a successful family practitioner for over 40 years, he could have easily retired, but opted instead to keep on working, focusing on natural anti aging, weight reduction, skin care, supplements and of course nutrition.
Dr. Sacks is vegan and this is what he recommends as the healthiest diet, so of course he wanted a vegan menu with the OK that a small amount of cheese could be included!
I was a bit worried as this was a grand opening in June in the desert, which could result in a disastrous turn out. But much to my delight, as I soon found out, Dr. Sacks is well loved and respected, and upwards of 150 guests showed up! They had a great time touring the new facilities and thouroghly enjoyed our organic wine selections and passed hors d’oeuvres-Chinese tempeh salad in wonton cups, rosemary potato chips topped w/ hummus and roasted peppers, and Fig, walnut tapenade w/ chevre on crostinis.
The beautiful buffet that was happily devoured included
Apple, Fennel, Kale Slaw…Whole Wheat Pasta Puntanesca….Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad…..Quinoa Tabouli…..Romaine salad tossed w/ Mango, cucumbers, avocado and toasted almonds in a ginger vinaigrette…..and an assorted of crudites, cheeses, fruits and nuts.
This wedding especially was pretty tough. It was to be held at The Corona yacht Club, a large outdoor, very rustic venue in Indio. Rustic in the sense that there are no kitchen facilities. A make shift kitchen must be brought in and set up to serve, at this particular event, a plated dinner with 2 choices to 140 guests.
The Bride and groom, Stacey and Pat, had a hard time deciding on the menu! They love our food philosophy and were excited to serve a fabulous, tasty, organic menu to their guests.
They finally decided on this menu:
Tray passed Hors D ‘Oeuvres
Seared Ahi dotted w/ Wasabi and Ponzu,
Proscuitto and Sage wrapped Prawns
Endive Spears filled with Gorgonzola Mousse, candied pecans and dried Cranberries
Mini Greek Pizzas
For the 1st Course-
A Classic Caesar Salad w/ Shaved Parmesan and Rustic Croutons
Choice of Grilled Mahi Mahi with and Orange, Avocado, jicama salsa
Free Range Chicken breasts stuffed goat cheese and roasted red pepper and olive tapenade
Both served with Cous Cous Pilaf and Seasonal grilled veggies
Off I went to Costa Rica, knowing the wedding dinner would be beautuful and flawless, and of course, it was!
3 mornings ago, I awoke in a great mood, to my usual routine. Coffee, morning reading and let Booda out to play with her her best buds Marshall and Cooper, our sweet adorable French Bulldog neighbors. But this morning was different, Nancy, Marshall and Coop’s mom was out, but no dogs. She was very upset saying that they were in the emergency room, having started seizures the night before, and had been rushed to the only 24 hour emergency vet clinic about 15 miles away.
“Oh my God, what the hell happened?” I asked, my heart sinking.
“We think they ate something, maybe poison, we have been searching the area looking, we think it may be Sago Palms, they flower and drop seeds that are deadly to dogs, so says the vet.”
Shocked I reply, “We live in the desert, we have dogs, how do we not know this?”
“ The vets also inform us that the symptoms look like it may be snail bait poisoning, Cooper is not doing well, I am waiting for a call”
The call comes….our worst nightmare, Cooper, not quite 2 years old, does not make it….
My heart breaks seeing my good friend Nancy getting the horrible news that her beloved pet is gone. She is sobbing, as am I….so sad
We pray that Cooper, Marshall’s brother, can hold on until the poison is flushed out of his body and he does for 2 days. The news comes that he also has passed. Any pet owner knows that words can not describe the heartbreak of losing not 1 but 2 of your beloved pets in the scope of a few long days. Not to mention the $8000 investment to try and save these angel dogs.
After scouring the area, Nancy’s family finds the poison, a box of snail bait carelessly thrown out in the bushes by a 92 year old neighbor.
The product is Vigoro Snail and Slug killer pellets…..
This is such a sad story, but unfortunately it needs to be told….things that will kill your pests can kill your pets! Please help spread the word…do not buy and use poison, there are other ways!!
Rest in Peace Marshall and Cooper, we love you and the friendship and joy you brought us
xoxo Booda and Jen
Cooking and making delicious food is an art and it’s also and intuitive process; By that I mean that when I make something, and taste it, I have an intuitive sense to add more of something or to balance the layers of flavors in a certain way. This intuitive piece comes with years of experience and the development of a sixth sense . . . we’ll call this one the food sense.
Don’t let that scare you though! You can still make delicious simple food at home by following closely the recipes of someone who has this sense and can translate it into a recipe with exact measurements for you. Let me show you how.
At Jennifer’s Kitchen we make a mashed potato substitute with Cauliflower.
Let me tell you it’s not your mama’s cauliflower. It’s delicious and because cauliflower is not a starch it’s better for you too! It’s low carb, our clients rave about this dish, and it’s simple really!
Here’s how to make it:
You will need
1 Head of Cauliflower
1-2 Tablespoons of Organic Butter
1-2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese grated
There are a couple of optional ingredients, you can add some almond milk, or organic milk or cream just start slowly and do it to taste.
Wash and cut the cauliflower into florets removing the stem and leaves.
Steam the cauliflower until tender
Mash the cauliflower with a potato masher
Add Butter and Parmesan and mix well
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add cream or almond milk if using
Mix and enjoy!
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. The quality of the products that you use will dictate the amount of flavor that you will be able to extract from the food. I like to use organic and locally grown produce and always recommend organic dairy if including dairy in a recipe.
Take the challenge yourself and you will quickly see that good quality equals GREAT taste!
The Queen of Clean Cuisine
While you can buy nut milks at the grocery and health food stores; not all nut milks are created equally!
For a nut milk to have optimal nutritional value the nuts used must be raw and soaked for 6-8 hours. I often soak the nuts overnight in purified water and they are ready to be rinsed and turned into nut milk the following morning. It is a good idea to refrigerate the nuts you are soaking especially in warmer climates.
Nut milks can be used as a dairy substitute for soups, in baking, in smoothies on cereals and just about anywhere you would use regular milk. My favorite nut milk and probably the most commonly known one is almond milk. Always choose organic nuts when choosing a nut for nut milk.
If you are buying nut milks that are commercially made be sure to read the labels and check for preservatives and additives. Often the convenience of these products is offset by the additives and honestly making nut milk is simple and quick! Nut milks will last for at least 4 days or so in the refrigerator after making and can be frozen too.
Here are the tools needed to make nut milks:
High speed blender
Strainer or nut milk bag
Glass container to store milk
Here’s a simple easy recipe for almond milk:
1 Cup of Raw Organic Almonds Soaked overnight or for at least 6 hours in purified water.(drain and rinse almonds after soaking)
4 Cups of Purified Water
Combine in high speed blender or VitaMix
When fully blended strain the mixture in a nut bag or strainer.
Save the pulp for other uses
The strained liquid is almond milk!
Store the milk refrigerated in a glass jar.
If you like sweet almond milk you can add maple syrup, honey, dates or raw agave nectar. Sometimes vanilla or almond extract can add a nice flavor to the nut milk too! When I add sweeteners to the milk I do it as I use the milk so the basic almond milk can be used in soups as well as on cereals or in baking.
Here’s a great video I found of someone making nut milk! Enjoy!
Google this link to watch this video http://mynewroots.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-new-roots-cooking-show-how-to-make.html
The Queen of Clean Cuisine
There was the South African Jewish Wedding; what a blast it was so much fun! The bride is gluten free and a vegetarian; so we needed to be able to accommodate her food preferences and have delicious choices for her wedding guests. We accomplished this by creating stations with a variety of foods. There was a fish station with a yummy halibut and lemon caper sauce and a regular pasta station that was not gluten free. Several other stations featured gluten free and vegetarian options. It is so wonderful to be able to partner with our clients to create the perfect memories of their special occasions.
Then there was the “Shredding Party”- it was my first and what a fun creative idea! Everyone brought all of their documents for shredding; Yes this was a catered affair! We served cocktails and lots of wonderful hors d’œuvres. All this was planned to be outdoors but we had a huge windstorm that day and the tent could not be put up. We moved everything indoors where there was a cozy atmosphere and great opportunities to mingle.
In the same week we had 3 birthday parties. The thing is all three were celebrating their 70th birthday and each choose a different way to share the day. The first chose to have a lovely lunch for 80 people in a new home they had purchased. Having the party prior to moving in allowed us to fill the home with tables, chairs and party decorations. It was at the beautiful Morningside Country Club with a very FUN theme. Lime green was the color of the day and the centerpiece was tiered mini cupcakes in bright colors (think a kid’s birthday party)! The cupcakes were from my favorite bakery Exquisite Deserts. All I can say is fun, festive and delicious!
Birthday #2 was a small intimate dinner for 22 family and close friends. This is a client we have done other events for. The theme was red his favorite color and cars- the cake a delicious toffee coffee crunch, red corvette cake!
The 3rd 70th Birthday Party in a week was for new clients. They are so in love and it was wonderful to work with them! This was his first birthday party and they were very specific about what they wanted. Now this does not go with Chef Jen’s Healthy Eating Plan but we did it anyway! It was a classic old favorite for many; Prime Rib, Shrimp Cocktail and ewwww Frog Legs. Yikes, well ok then . . . . I have never been asked to make these and my client joked about it saying, “don’t make too many, my friends won’t eat them. So I ordered and prepared frog legs in garlic butter.
Then more true to my style we included a lovely roasted salmon with a tomato basil relish and several salads and healthy sides. Our good friend Greg at My Little Flower Shop did the most amazingly beautiful flowers for the party. It was so much fun and of course everyone we worked with this week was thrilled with their party!
Ok it was time for me to get a massage and plan several vacations for the end of season.
One woman called and had insisted on managing her daughter’s wedding from renting a venue for the reception that could accomodate 200, choosing a church for the ceremony, selecting the menu, hiring a band and all of the related activities that have to take place to make the wedding a memorable occasion. It was memorable and it was a disaster! The church had back to back weddings that day so the photographer had to photograph the bridal party before the ceremony instead of after. Theirs was the first wedding of the day. To add insult to injury the restaurant that was chosen for the reception could not feed 200 people at once and there was a very long buffet line. The timing of the band was off too and instead of having music while people were waiting in the buffet line there was no entertainment until an hour later. The story went on and on and the regret she had experienced for trying to do it all herself in order to save money was palpable. But the biggest regret was that she was unable to enjoy the wedding because she was so worried about coordinating everything herself.
Then there was the person who insisted on renting tables, chairs and dishes from her friend. All arrived dirty, needing to be washed which cost staff time. She ended up spending twice in labor what she saved by giving her friend, an unknown vendor the job.
There is a cost to the DIY approach and that cost can be much bigger than the bucks saved on the front end. For us peace of mind and the knowledge that you are in the hands of an event and catering professional who will get it right is paramount to having a great experience.
Our philosophy at Jennifer’s Kitchen for both catering and event management is that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Our clients are often amazed at how effortless everything is from the planning to the execution. It can be off putting to someone who has had a bad experience trying to do it themselves to see the ease with which a person with experience can create an event and trust the event professional.
Here are 5 things to look for when you are planning your next event and before hiring an event professional:
1. Is the person a professional? Do they have a web presence, testimonials, a Facebook page, business cards etc. Ask for references not only from previous clients but also from event professionals in the area such as florists, bridal shops, and photographers.
2. Do they return your phone call or email inquiry in a timely manner. If you have not been contacted within 24 hours and it’s not a weekend or major holiday you may want to reconsider this professional.
3. Do they listen to you? There is nothing worse than an event professional who thinks they know what you want before you have had a chance to communicate what you are looking for. If your husband does not like chicken and the caterer/planner had chicken on the menu, you have a problem.
4. Be clear about what you want before you call. Have a total budget in mind and share that with the caterer or event planner. Be very clear too on what you don’t want. And be open to suggestions from the professional.
5. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can get someone’s pricing down. You get what you pay for and sometimes $1.00 per person can translate to a remarkable experience with high marks! So if you are looking for a bargain, know that there will be a price for that too!
The Queen of Clean Cuisine
Lately we have been receiving more calls for sustainably produced, organic catering. It seems that organic, or bio-dynamically produced food and wine is quickly becoming the norm for more and more people. I have been wondering why there has been so much movement in this direction and my sense is that it comes from 5 major shifts that we are experiencing. These 5 shifts are synergistic and are not listed in the level of importance. They are my thoughts as to why we are starting to care more about the food supply.
1. The first shift is the economy. The economic downturn has caused us to value quality at a higher level. During the 50′s planned obsolescence was wired into manufacturing and we quickly became a disposable society. As technology became more and more available we had less time to focus on the quality of our food and fast food restaurants became the norm for many who were running too fast to continue to prepare healthy homemade food for themselves and their family. The economic downturn has us spending more time at home with family and looking at where we invest our dollars. The cost of making food at home is a lot less than that of eating in restaurants and it’s healthier too!
2. The second is food safety. There have been so many episodes recently of contaminated food supplies and illnesses that are a direct result of these foods that consumers have become wary of fast foods, factory farming practices, and many are now questioning where their food is coming from. Stores like Whole Foods have had to answer to both carrying frozen vegetables from China and to carrying genetically modified foods, (GMO). Factory farms supplying meat, dairy and eggs have had to recall and destroy significant quantities of food in the last year alone.
3. GMO concerns, the over use of antibiotics in factory farming, and chemicals used for growing that add toxins to our environment are frequently at the forefront of our awareness these days. Clearly these practices are not leading to better quality of our food, nor are they creating more food for people who are hungry. There are now antibiotic resistant bacteria that are creating problems in the medical world and these have been created through farming practices. Certain European and South American countries have banned GMOs and have destroyed crops. Chemicals are being found in places where they should not be, bees are dying, and our health as a nation is declining.
4. The internet and social networks have created the ability to get information quickly about what is really going on. Social networking sites like Facebook have thousands of groups focused on different aspects of health and wellness and there are business pages for causes like the elimination of GMOs. Millions against Monsanto is one such page that has just that millions adding their voice to stop the genetic modification of food. We know there’s just something that’s off about crossing a tomato with fish to extend the shelf life. “Frankenfood” is the tag line for these practices. Wellness is a huge focus and the connection of food to wellness can no longer be ignored.
5. The growth of Farmer’s Markets. In my area alone we now have 6 Farmer’s Markets operating. In the summer the numbers drop to 3 due to the heat and the markets that remain move indoors. At the farmer’s market, you may need to ask where the produce and other products are from, and if they are organic or sustainable. Good markets have standards and allow good producers. So it is now possible to really know where your food is coming from. It’s wonderful to be able to buy fresh food that is vibrant in color and comes from a farmer you can trust. Fresh local produce tastes better because it still has the systemic enzymes that are part of the freshness factor. There’s something very satisfying about keeping food dollars local too! It helps our local economies!
I love being a guest chef at the local Farmer’s Market because I can decide when I arrive what to make and choose from a fabulous selection of amazing produce. Last week I made a Quinoa salad that had marketers wanting more! It was such a success we added it to our catering menu. Fresh is Best and that is what we are known for at Jennifer’s!
The Queen of Clean Cuisine
As I reflected on what she wrote, it occurred to me that several things happen when clients make a decision to work with me or any other caterer. The expectations a client has will be colored by the lens of past experiences and their memory of those experiences will create an expectation that they may not be aware of.
For example, if a previous experience required micro managing the caterer or event planner; it could create a concern that will be needed again. If a previous catered function did not meet the client’s expectations; it may be difficult to trust that a the expectations will be met with this engagement.
The truth is that excellence and drama do not have to co-exist! You can have the most amazing event and perfection at every point if you work with someone who is drama free and has the expertise and experience to deliver at a level that meets or exceeds your expectations!
We make it look easy because we listen to you, ask the right questions and deliver what you want, every single time!
Here are my top 5 things to look for when choosing a caterer for your event.
1. Where do they operate from? Do they have a commercial kitchen and where is it? Visit it if possible, find out how long they have been there. If the caterer you are considering is not operating out of a commercial kitchen the quality you experience may be compromised.
2. Ask other event professionals if they recommend this person. Florists for example know who the good caterers are in the area. So do event planners and people who sell event related things like photography and wedding dresses.
3. Check out the caterer’s online presence. Do they have a website, with client comments or testimonials? Do they have a Facebook Page. Does the language they use on their website sound true to you? Are there pictures of events set ups and food on the sites? Are their Facebook posts in alignment with the content on their websites?
4. Ask for references. A great caterer will be able to provide excellent references!
5. Pay attention; is the caterer listening to you? Is she or he asking you appropriate questions? Is the person present to you or multi-tasking? Is the caterer calm and peaceful or is drama happening around him or her? Drama free catering happens only when the person you are working with is drama free!
Clear, clean, communication is essential to a successful event! We make it look easy because we are committed to providing you with a wonderful experience and delicious food! All you have to do is relax and enjoy!
The Queen of Clean Cuisine