Homemade Pumpkin Spice Blend Recipe

Personal Chef and Catering Austin Texas

Pumpkin Spice Powder

Do you love the taste of pumpkin spice? You can add this to your coffee blend, or a compound butter, or syrup. It has many possibilities. It is a combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and clove. You could add it to your mulling spice blend to give it a little extra spice as well. This is definitely a holiday favorite for all pumpkin spice lovers!

Ingredients
3 T Cinnamon (I actually oven roast the bark and grind my own)
2 T Allspice
2 T Nutmeg
1 T Ground Cloves
1/2 t Organic Ginger

Directions
If you desire to grind your own cinnamon bark I suggest finding it at your local Asian or Indian Market or Grocery Store. Take the bark out of the package, place on baking sheet and roast until it is nice a brown and moisture is removed. Remove from oven and let cool completely! (I have ruined several coffee grinders during this process if they are not completely cooled) once ground you will mix the spices and place in an airtight jar or tin. If you want to add this to a syrup for holiday pancakes, or a butter for a banana nut bread it all works just fine! Enjoy.

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Coconut Shrimp Recipe

Coconut Shrimp
Private Dinner Party Services and Personal Chef Austin Texas


Ingredients:

2-3 lbs whole 16/20 shrimp, cleaned, deveined, with tail left on
2 cups corn flakes
2 cups beer batter (see below for recipe)
2 cups coconut, shredded
6-8 cups coconut oil
1-2 tsp salt and pepper added to your flour dredge
flour, for dredging


Beer Batter Recipe:

5-6 cups all-purpose flour, start with 5 and add more if batter is too runny
8 eggs
18 oz of a good dark beer that is equal to about 1 1/2 beers


Instructions:

1. Heat the coconut oil to about 350 degrees or medium high heat
2. Make your beer batter mixture.
3. Mix the corn flakes and coconut and hold until you are ready for them. The whole process is really quick after this step.
4. Add the shrimp to the flour dredge and coat until covered.
5. Dip the shrimp holding it by the tail into the beer batter mixture, and when well coated, roll into your cornflake coconut mixture. Press down if needed to get a good coating on your shrimp.
6. Add to the hot oil and cook until golden brown.
7. Remove and add to a paper towel to remove the excess oil. Serve and enjoy!

Key Tips For Growing Bell Peppers

Private Dinner Party Services and Personal Chef Austin Texas


Bell-Peppers-640x480
I love Bell Peppers in just about anything and I will eat them fresh after washing them first of course. Meatloaf would not be meatloaf without them in there! They are great on salads and they are a good source of vitamins. Here are 5 tips for growing great bell peppers.

Red, green, yellow and purple are all popular colors of bell peppers. This universal vegetable is native to North America and is not only used for cooking, but also decoration. Bell peppers are packed with vitamins including vitamin A and C, and do not lose their potency when cooked.

Although bell peppers take much longer to grow from seeds than other vegetables, they will yield several peppers on one plant with proper care and fertilizer. Generally, bell peppers, when planted from seeds will be ready to harvest in 10-12 weeks.

How to Grow the Best Tasting Bell Peppers

1. Prepare the ground before planting bell pepper seeds by turning the soil and adding organic matter such as peat moss. Bell pepper plants can be grown in rows or as single plants. Each plant may produce 4 or more peppers if taken care of throughout the growing season.

2. Bell peppers can be planted from seed, but due to the long growing season, it is probably best to buy plants when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. However, if you choose to plant from seeds yourself, plant seeds about ½ inch in the ground and 3 inches apart in rows or seed starter containers.

3. When plants reach 4 – 6 inches tall, and all possibility of frost has passed, transplant to your garden on a cloudy day or in the evening to prevent wilting. Create small wells, fill with water and allow to soak into the ground before planting bell pepper plants. The wells help retain moisture when watered.

4. Water bell pepper plants often so they do not wilt. Once pepper plants wilt they lose their yield and quality.

5. Bell peppers will be ready to pick when they are shiny and firm, about 8 – 10 weeks after transplanting. The more often you harvest, the more peppers that will grow. If peppers remain on the plant, likely they will turn yellow, red or purple and this will not affect the taste too much.

Other helpful tips for growing delicious bell peppers

Pepper plants grow best in warmer seasons and do require at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, so plant in full sun if possible.

Bell peppers are prone to some diseases especially in milder climates. Ensure you inspect leaves for spots, which are caused by bacteria and fungi. Leaf spots can be remedied with a treatment of sulfur, neem oil or other types of fungicides. Read all labels for safe application.

Peppers may also attract a number of insects that will affect plant growth. Flea beetles, leaf miners and aphids can all infect a plant’s growth. There are a number of insecticides on the market including organic such as sulfur and Bt-based products. Read all labels before using on your bell pepper plants.

Once harvested, bell peppers should be stored in a refrigerator, and are good up to 3 days, cooked or cut and freeze for later use

Source: beselfsufficient.net/growing-fantastic-bell-peppers/

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Mistakes That People Make When Herb Gargening



Herb Gardening Warren Pogue Farms
Private Dinner Party Services and Personal Chef Austin Texas

So you’re thinking of herb gardening, or maybe you tried it last year and it was an utter disaster? Have no fear. There are a few simple mistakes that many herb newbies make. Master these simple and practical tips for herb gardening and you’ll be using your own fresh herbs in no time.

Fresh herbs are one of the greatest ways to increase the taste of your food healthfully. Fresh herbs can add punch to sauces or create intensely flavorful crusts for roasted meats. While fresh herbs are now regularly available at grocery stores year round, growing your own herbs is a great way to build mastery over your food. Growing herbs at home can be easy regardless of where you live, whether in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city. So here is some quick and practical advice for growing herbs for beginners.

Mistake 1: Growing from seed. When you first start out trying to grow fresh herbs, I recommend you begin by trying to grow from seedlings rather than planting your own seeds. These great little starter plants are widely available in grocery stores in the late spring. For the same price as a packet of fresh herbs from the produce section, you can buy your own little starter plant. Lots can go wrong in the seed to seedling transition (including not thinning out plants properly), so its probably best to begin by skipping that complicated task or you are in danger of washing out before you really begin.

Mistake 2: Starting with the wrong varieties. I recommend you start by trying to grow fresh basil. It is the perfect trainer herb. First, basil grows quickly, allowing you to observe the effects of your care more easily. Second, basil leaves wilt visibly when not watered enough, but recovers well if you water the wilted plant.

Mistake 3: Watering herbs like houseplants. Instead, water herbs a moderate amount every day. While some houseplants flourish with one solid watering per week, most delicate herbs require moderate and regular watering. This is particularly true during hot summer months. If you have good drainage at the bottom of your pot or at least a drainage hole, possibly rocks beneath the soil, it will be difficult to water herbs too much.

Mistake 4: Not cutting early and often. As a novice gardener, it may seem like your puny little plant just isn’t ready for a trip to the barber, but then you will find yourself sitting there wishing for leaves without much success. Again, basil is a great herb to practice pruning. As with all herbs, you want to cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. With basil, when you cut the plant that way, the originally trimmed stem will no longer grow. However, two new stems will grow around the original cutting, creating a “V” shape (see the photo above, can you spot the Vs?). If you don’t trim basil aggressively, it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil produces a nice sturdy plant. Of course you want to be sure you are always leaving a few good sturdy leaves on the plant (see below). As it continues to grow, continue to prune it approximately every 3-4″ for a nice solid plant. I like to let it grow for some time and then cut back to within 2-3 inches of the original cut. After only a few early trial cuts, this usually makes for a nice clipping with plenty of basil to use for a pizza.
Basil Cutting
Mistake 5: Taking the leaves from the wrong place. When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb’s growth. Once your plant is big enough to sustain a decent harvest, keep on taking from the top, as you have been when you were pruning. That way you get all those tender new herbs that are so tasty, and your plant gets to keep its well developed solar power system in place. Plus, if you pluck from the base and leave the top intact, you get a tall skinny plant that will flop over from its own weight (and yes, I know this from experience). When you pluck from the top, instead of clipping off just below a pair of leaves, you want to clip off just above a pair of leaves. It is a bit counter-intuitive as a novice, but trust me it works. The place where the leaf joins the stem is where new growth will occur when your plant sends off new stems in a V.
Basil Seed Pod
Mistake 6: Letting your plants get too shabby. If you are pruning regularly, this may never become an issue, but unless you are growing something for its edible flowers, be sure to cut back herbs before they start growing flowers. If you want leaves, keep cutting off the little flower buds whenever you find them (see photo above), and it will encourage your plant to focus on growing more leaves.

Mistake 7: Using tired soil with no nutrients. Tired soil that has been sitting in your garden or lawn for ages often looks grey and a little depressing. Would you want to grow in that stuff? Give your plants a dose of the good stuff and they’ll thank you for it. I grow my herbs in a combination of potting soil, used coffee grounds (with a near-neutral PH, available for free at Starbucks), and organic compost.

Mistake 8: Getting in a rut. There is an element to passion about herb gardening. In order to be good at it, you need to feel rewarded. So don’t stick too long with one or two herbs just because they work. Branch out to a few other basic herbs that you will use regularly in your kitchen. Once you have become comfortable with basil, I recommend moving on to try growing oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme. All are regularly useful herbs in the kitchen, and all are relatively easy to grow. You will notice that rosemary cleaves after cutting in a somewhat similar way to basil, but grows much more slowly, so the effect is difficult to notice. Some plants also respond to clipping by throwing out more full leaves at their base.

Mistake 9: You mean there’s more than one kind of mint? When choosing herbs, read the label carefully. For example, there are two main varieties of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. Mediterranean oregano is the more common variety, and what you likely own if you have conventional dried oregano in your cupboard.

Mistake 10: If you are planting in soil instead of pots, take care that your cute little herb seedling doesn’t become a giant plant that takes over your garden. A word of warning for oregano and mint: both can be voracious growers. If you are planting outside in a garden, rather than in pots, you may want to consider potting these herbs and then burying the pots in the ground. This will add a measure of control to the root systems of these herbs, which can otherwise take over a garden and strangle nearby neighbors. When in doubt, check out wikipedia, they usually are careful to point out which herbs are in danger of overwhelming your garden.

Source: skinnygourmet.blogspot.com/2008/05/ten-mistakes-new-herb-gardeners-make.html

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Foods That You Should Never Eat To Stay Healthy

Sugar
Private Dinner Party Services and Personal Chef Austin Texas

I have read many different diet programs, and heard about that from others in the industry. I feel that there are many in the cooking industry that have issues with weight, the others they just have good genetics and a metabolism that works much better than the rest of us. I know a few chefs that look like they need to eat a much more but they actually do eat many meals or large meals and they just do not gain weight like the rest of the population without the workout regime attached either.

I have talked many times about GMO’s and non-GMO products and that is another issue all together that I am very passionate about, but a lot of these foods that they say you should not eat to help lose weight and keep it off for good but it actually makes sense too. So I feel fall into that category especially if you do not know the origination of the food source. If it is not labeled non-gmo it probably has the likelihood to have a bi-product or the seed it came from could possibly be GMO – “G.M.O = Genetically Modified Organism”. Sugar can come from sugar cane and/or sugar beets. Most of the sugar beet production is now being grown from gmo seeds.

There are quite a few things to remove from your diet and the number one item on our list is.

1. Sugar and it has many reasons that you should remove that first. If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic that would be the utmost reason to cut that out. However every mammal on the planet has candida yeast in their gut, but if you are feeding the candida beast you are in big trouble. Your body will crave even more sugar that will lead you to eating it and staying in the sugar cycle. It will also lead to belly fat and if you are not diabetic “yet” you could possibly end up there. When you gain weight many people become sedentary and then add more wight, I have been there and it sucks! Time to stop eating the sugar and try to search out a better diet and then add some exercise and activity to get your body moving to burn calories. There are many other reasons such as tooth decay, added fat to your liver, hard on the pancreas if that quits you are a diabetic for sure, high cholesterol etc…. I am not saying stay completely away from sugar it is in many of our foods naturally, but definitely use in moderation, and use organic non gmo if possible.

2. Artificial sweeteners. They are sweeter than sugar because they are processed that way to help sugar junkies get their sugar fix, and still induces the sugar cravings. Stay away from these.

3. Diet Foods or Low Calorie foods. Unfortunately, “diet” or “low-fat” doesn’t mean low-calorie. Diet bars and low-fat foods like yogurts usually have more sugar, salt, and unhealthy fillers to make them taste okay. Even worse, we typically eat double the serving we should because we’re not satisfied or think that it’s okay to eat more because it’s “healthy.

4. White Bread and many people eat white bread because they do not like wheat bread, or just prefer white, and kids could just be picky eaters, but for whatever reason you should abstain. The truth is that it doesn’t have any nutritional value and it contains a lot of sugar and it doesn’t have the ability to keep you satisfied especially if the candida beast is riding your back. You are likely to find yourself feeling hungry and reaching for snacks after not time when your gut is sending your brain the signal to search for more sugar.

5. Fried Foods It is common knowledge that fried foods are not healthy and should be avoided, a good alternative is baked or poached. In addition of causing you to pile on the pounds, these foods are of little nutritional or no nutritional value at all and can cause you some serious health problems. Such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This could set you up for heart problems such as heart disease, heart failure and possibly a stroke. I used to have issues with acid reflux due to eating to many fried foods like hamburgers and french fries…an old weakness of mine. I love fried foods but not what it was doing to my body. If you decided to do a cheat meal it would be better in moderation, and not very often.

The list could go on and on. White rice, energy bars, most granola and muesli, creamy salad dressings, etc… Most of every item stem from sugar, too much sugar and the way our bodies process it. If you have diet and exercise in your weekly routine, even if you only are able to do it a few times a week, you will be much healthier for it, and/or at least you will feel better. I have been there and done that myself. Good luck with your journey and hopefully you will find a healthier version of you if you are seeking it 🙂

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Personal Chef Austin Texas


Peanut Cheesecake Cookie Bars

If you like cookies, cheesecake and peanut butter then you have found a recipe that will tantalize your taste-buds and offer the combination of all 3.This is a fairly simple recipe and should be a hit if you are preparing for your family or guests. This is a good recipe to take to a company party of event that will make them ask for the recipe.
Ingredients:
2 cups chocolate chips
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, unsalted – save 1/2 cup and let soften to mix with the sugar and oats.
1 cup white sugar, divided in half for the
1 cup flour
2 eggs
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup peanut butter
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla (I use Vanilla bean paste – More flavor in my opinion but regular works too)

Instructions:

1. Make the cookie dough: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter until smooth and fluffy then add 1 egg and beat until incorporated.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture in with the softened butter and 1/2 c sugar, mixing well. Then add in the oats and chocolate chips and incorporate with the flour mixture.
3. Make the cheesecake filling: Cream the cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 c sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
4. Press half to two-thirds of the cookie dough in the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish. Pour the cheesecake filling over the dough and crumble the remaining dough and sprinkle over the top.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, but leave the foil vented you do not want to create steam just to bake. This step keeps it from browning to quickly so you will not burn your dessert.
6. Last step remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, or until lightly browned and cheesecake layer is set. Serve warm or cold and store leftover bars in refrigerator.

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Moist Chocolate Melt In Your Mouth Cake Pops

Chocolate Cake Pops
By Austin Texas Dinner Party Chef,

Cake Pop Dessert

A delicious, moist, cake ball, chocolate covered dessert that will melt in your mouth….DELISH! If you feel guilty when eating dessert in general then this is a great dessert, that is served as a small portion, and not a \”Whole\” piece of cake. Wonderful Chocolatey goodness that melts in your mouth!

Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 85 Minutes
Yield: 25 Cake Pops

Ingredients:

1 container of chocolate frosting
1 box of Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix
11 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup of water
1/3 cup of oil
2 eggs

Instructions:

1. Prepare the cake according to the package directions; fill cupcake tins 3/4 full and bake at 350°F for 19-21 minutes.
2. Set cupcakes on the counter to cool; they should be cool to the touch before you begin working with them. (If you are crunched for time, once the cupcakes are done, chill in freezer for 10-15 minutes.
3. When the cupcakes are cool, rip each cupcake into pieces, creating fine crumbs; put them in a separate bowl. You will need 4 cups of the crumbs and the mixture should resemble sand.
4. Add 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons frosting to your cake crumbs. Get ready to get your hands dirty. Mix the frosting and the cake together until there are no extra crumbs and you can handle the chocolate cake mass like you would handle cookie dough.
5. Roll golf ball size cake bites onto a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. When you are done, pop them in the freezer for an additional 10 minutes.
6. While the cake pops are firming up, melt an 11 oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate on the stove-top on the lowest possible heat. To avoid the chocolate from burning, use a double boiler or boil a pot of water and place a heatproof bowl with the chocolate in it.
7. Take your cake pops from the freezer. Put one cake ball in the chocolate glaze and with two spoons, roll it around to make sure that it is fully coated. Pick up the cake ball using spoons and drop it back on the aluminum foil. Repeat this for all of the cake balls.
8. Pop them in the fridge until the chocolate becomes smooth to the touch. Then, push your wooden spools about 1/3 of the way into each cake pop. Enjoy!

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