alphabet-soup

While cooking for seniors, I do a lot of things differently than I normally do. Many times, their grown children are the ones who hire me to be their personal chef for seniors in their lives, whether it’s for their aging parents or in-laws.  I was recently hired to be a personal chef for a lovely senior lady in Orland Park. Her daughter had had the gas disconnected, due to the fact that her mother has dementia; she still is in her home and is able to be somewhat independent. Her caregiver is able to just pop the meals I have made into the microwave for her to heat them. I give instructions on how to heat properly, so there is no danger of the food becoming dried out. I package the food in microwave safe containers, which makes it easy for my seniors as well as their caregivers to heat and eat. My senior personal chef clients are getting good nutrition, without any danger or bother of heating with the oven or stovetop.spaghetti-meatballs

Most of my clients who have had me as their personal chef are eating healthier in the New Year. Some of them are following a paleo diet, some are following the Whole 30 eating plan, some happen to be gluten free or diabetic. It seems that they all are in the mood for healthy flavorful soups! Depending on a few ingredients, I can adapt most healthy soups to be paleo, or Whole30 compliant. 

Here is one I made yesterday for a client who needed a personal chef in Palos Heights. He is diabetic and gluten free. This is Korean Pork and Tofu soup made with red miso, in a light flavorful bone broth; garnished with lots of crunchy bright ingredients like scallions, cilantro, sliced radishes. 

 

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Have you tried harissa? It is a North African chile paste made with peppers, vinegar. Sometimes it’s very spicy, there are some that are milder in flavor. I have used it for long time in cooking. I think of it as far more than a condiment. It adds depth and flavor to all kinds of dishes, where you wouldn’t expect it. I have made Harissa Roasted Chicken, Harissa Roasted Vegetables.; I have added it to dips and sauces. One of my favorite recipes that always surprises people is a spicy carrot dip. It has cooked pureed carrots (bear with me, it gets better), lots of garlic, cumin, other spices as well as harissa. It is delicious with crackers or crudités. Everyone loves it; I have made it for holiday parties and gatherings. One of my clients who has had me as her personal chef in Hinsdale for years, had me make it for an after school snack for her kids. 

Harissa is really versatile; I am finding more and more unusual ways to make it for my personal chef clients. You’ll be hearing more and more about it. Harissa will be the new Sriracha of 2017!

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As  a personal chef for the last thirteen years, January is always the month when I get phone calls from people looking for healthy meal solutions, eating clean, going low grain, carageenan free diets. This year, many of the calls have been about the Whole 30 plan. The Whole 30 cookbook has a lot in common with paleo diets, as well as gluten free diets in some ways. As with all of these eating plans, I always find if I focus on what my client CAN eat, as opposed to the “off limits” food, it’s not nearly as daunting as it seems. In this case, the Whole 30 plan is sugar free, grain free, legume free, alcohol free and soy free. That is the nutshell version. This week, my clients started the Whole 30 plan, but needed a personal chef to prepare it! That’s where I came in. Here is what I made:

Grassfed Beef Chili, Moroccan Chicken Breasts with Cilantro Dipping Sauce, Blue Ribbon Country Captain Chicken. Grilled Lime Shrimp,Mashed Potatoes, Coconut Almond Green Beans, Moroccan Orange Salad, Baba Ganoush, Shredded Poached Chicken, Hasselback Potatoes with Ghee and Garlic, and Deviled Eggs. 

It was all delicious, bright and favorful! I don’t think anyone in that house will be feeling deprived this week! 

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I recently had a request from one of my Glen Ellyn personal chef clients. She is having a houseful at Thanksgiving, and is looking forward to making a lot of the food herself, with some help from her sisters in law! She asked for my help in coming up with some healthy, bright side dishes. She and her husband are very healthy eaters, and she knew she would have to serve stuffing, turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes for all of the purists in her crowd, but wanted to incorporate some nice crunchy, bright additions. I gave her some great recipes for a panzanella salad and green beans gremolata. The dish has bright quickly roasted haricots vert with fresh rosemary, garlic and lemon. It is a really welcome change from the same old green bean casserole! Everyone I’ve made that for loves it.

As a personal chef, I welcome special requests like this. My client actually really enjoys cooking a few times a year; especially at the holidays. I was more than happy to help her come up with a menu, and some time saving tips and do-ahead ideas. In years past, she is always happy to pass the kitchen duties back over to me until next time! Christmas is right around the corner!

As a personal chef, I often get calls from people who were recently diagnosed with an illness and have to change their diets. It can be so overwhelming, in the beginning, to have to break old habits and not know where to start. My very first client had been diagnosed with Celiac disease. This was several years ago, before labels clearly stated whether the product contained wheat, for example. I made many phone calls from the grocery store in those days, to find out whether a product was safe for my client to eat. I now consider myself very well versed on which gluten free pastas are good, and which ones are pasty and flavorless! There are some really good ones out now, and much more readily available than they used to be!
More often than not, people with special diets are much easier to cook for than they might anticipate at first. I focus on the foods they can eat, instead of trying to substitute the foods that are off limits now. Usually, it goes hand in hand with the way I cool most often. Healthy, lean meats, full of protein. Lots of fresh vegetables, roasted, tossed with fresh herbs or toasted nuts.

I have cooked for all kinds of special diets. I have cooked for people with diabetes, Lupus, high blood pressure, Huntingtons Disease, Parkinsons, Alzheimers, cancer, etc.
It is so rewarding to cook for people with sensitivities, allergies, or illnesses, and have them really enjoy eating, as well as helping them recover. When I cook flavorful food with lots of variety, it makes my clients mealtimes a lot more enjoyable!

When I first started my in-home cooking service, most of my clients were busy professionals and families. In the past few years, I have been so lucky to add seniors to my clientele.

I find that cooking for seniors is so rewarding. More often than not, they sit in the kitchen with me, or nearby, as I cook. We visit and talk about food, family, their history. It’s so interesting to get to know them. I am privileged to become friends with many of them.

I consider it an honor when they share their old recipes with me, that they made for their kids years ago. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was when the grown daughter of one of my clients said that the meatloaf recipe she shared with me tasted just like it did when her mom made it 50 years ago!

Another client’s grown son told me that my cooking service has allowed his mom to remain in her home and stay independent. He doesn’t worry about her trying to cook her meals. Quite often, she asks me to make a big dish, a big lasagna or chicken pot pie, and she has her 3 grown grandchildren over for dinner.

Having a personal chef turns out to be a time-saver for the children of seniors, and I really strive to improve their quality of life in any way that I can.

My cooking days with seniors are always a bright spot in my week!