All posts by Chef Bianca

Fall Vegetables: 5 Amazing Facts You HAVE to Know

Getting ready for the change in season? For me that means shifting my menus to include lots of fall vegetables. In addition to cooking seasonally, some of us chefs like to geek out over fun and interesting food facts.

From their many health benefits to their rich history, here are jeopardy-worthy fall vegetable facts you HAVE to know. Use them to impress your dinner guests or to get conversation rolling around the table.

Fun Facts About Fall Vegetables

1. Carrots are around 5,000 years old…and they’re still going strong! Many say carrots were originally used medicinally. Today, they’re a culinary staple, used to prepare stocks, soups and stews. Even though we don’t often think about the health benefits, they’re still there. Carrots contain beta-carotene (how they got their name) and other important nutrients. (Source)

2. Cauliflower is the answer to…everything! Because of its versatility, you can use cauliflower to make grain-free dishes like cauliflower rice and pizza dough. You can even use it in vegetarian cooking to make meat-like meals, such as cauliflower steaks and buffalo nuggets. If you’re on a limited diet, ask us how we can turn your favorite food into a healthful cauliflower creation.

3. Mushrooms can help give your immune system a boost—which is good to know as those first fall sniffles come to pass. They’re also anti-inflammatory. You can find mushrooms sold as teas and tinctures, but I like to use whole mushrooms in my meals to yield the benefits. Sauté them and add to pasta dishes or put them in the food processor to make a vegan pâté (check out this recipe from Smitten Kitchen). (Source)

4. Chestnuts aren’t just for open fires (and Christmas songs). Chestnuts can be used to make a variety of sweet and savory dishes…seriously! Try this creamy puréed chestnut soup or use chestnut flour to make gluten-free brownies. Get creative and see how awesome chestnuts can be.

5. Potatoes: According to the International Potato Center (yup, that’s a thing) there are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes—in a multitude of shapes, sizes and colors. We like to serve them in a bunch of different ways for our personal chef clients. From mashed potatoes to french fries to latkes, there’s plenty to whip up with all those spuds this season.

Want to get more fall vegetables on your plate? About the Table will design fresh menus of healthy and delicious meals, featuring the best local produce just for you. We’ll even throw in a few extra fun facts! Contact us to learn more.

5 Back-to-School Dessert Recipes for Kids

The end of August marks back-to-school time in Delaware. And the thought of a new year may be met with excitement…or groans. But no matter how your family feels about the end of summer, the best way to earn a smile is with a sweet treat.

If you’re looking for delicious dessert recipes for kids, I have lots of ideas you can make at home. Cooking with your kids will get them excited about their what’s in their lunch box—especially when it includes dessert.

My favorite back-to-school recipes for kids have something for everyone, from gluten-free options to all-out decadence. Get in the kitchen and try something new.

Try These Indulgent Dessert Recipes for Kids

Healthy Rice Krispie Treats
A modern twist on a timeless snack, these Rice Krispie treats from Running with Spoons nix the sugary marshmallows in favor of brown rice syrup or honey (you decide). The recipe also contains almond butter, so you can get a bit of protein with every bite. Top it off with a drizzle of melted chocolate for a stunning presentation!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies
Who wouldn’t love to find a peanut butter-filled chocolate cookie sandwich in their lunch box? Easy to make (and fun to eat) these whoopie pies from Elana’s Pantry are sure be a winner with your kids. The cherry on top? They’re gluten- and dairy-free. But don’t worry; no one will know the difference!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Everyone needs a classic cookie recipe—and this one from Ina Garten fits the bill. Full of chocolate chunks and walnuts, it packs some serious flavor and texture. Be sure to serve your warm cookies with glasses of cold milk for dunking!

Lemon Bars
If you’re looking for non-chocolate dessert recipes for kids, try these easy lemon bars from Dinner Then Dessert. The sweet-tart combo is both refreshing and elegant. Pack ‘em up for lunch. Or, bring them to the school bake sale for an easy A.

Cook with Chef Bianca
Want to learn how to make even more amazing recipes for kids (and adults) under the guidance of a professional chef? About the Table offers customizable cooking classes. Contact us for details or to book us for a class.

Deconstructed Food: It’s Not Just for Chipotle Anymore

What’s in your meal?

No really—what’s actually in your meal? Have you read the ingredient labels on everything you’re eating? Do you know exactly what you’re putting into your body 3+ times per day?

Undesirable ingredients like sugar, preservatives and unhealthy fats often hide in the most unexpected products, including condiments, canned foods and snacks. Perhaps you didn’t know how frequently you consume small amounts of refined sugar and preservatives. But add it all up, and you may realize even “healthy” products aren’t exactly what they seem.

In response to growing concern about meal quality, many restaurants and food companies are starting to take a deconstructed food approach to their menu. Following Chipotle’s “build-your-own burrito” precedent, many other restaurants now offer their customers the chance to see each ingredient side-by-side before making a decision. Greater ingredient transparency means greater trust in the company’s offerings.

The Deconstruction Advantage

At About the Table, we like the build-your-own idea not just because it offers more choices, but because it allows you to consider each ingredient before adding it to your meal. If you know gluten and dairy present digestive problems for you, you can skip the cheese and tortilla and substitute guacamole and rice instead. You can ask questions about each ingredient—we’re always happy to talk food!

Building your own meal also encourages you to experiment with different flavor combinations and become a more adventurous eater. Knowing any choice you make will be a delicious one, you can feel comfortable diving headfirst into the array of spices, flavors and textures.

Bring It Home

Deconstruction isn’t just for restaurants, either. At home, you can recreate the experience by setting out different ingredients and letting everyone in the family build their own meal. For kids, this lets them try new foods and makes them feel like they’ve participated in making dinner.

Need ideas? Try Egg Roll in a Bowl with different sautéed veggies, ground pork, rice and sauces like tamari. For a fun dessert option, give Ina Garten’s Strawberry Shortcakes Deconstructed a whirl. Mexican, Greek and Italian food themes also work well.

Add Build-Your-Own Options

About the Table specializes in customized menus that appeal to all palates and ages. Ask us to add deconstructed food options to your meal service and start broadening your culinary horizons—while knowing every ingredient is a healthy, whole-food choice. Contact us to get started with personal chef services.

Too Hot to Cook? Try These No-Cook Meal Ideas This Summer!

Has it become too hot to cook in your kitchen this summer? The thought of turning on the oven or stove is less than appealing when you’ve been out in the sun all day. But don’t let the heat spoil your appetite. There are plenty of light, no-cook meal ideas available to beat the heat while keeping your family well-fed!

Key Ingredients for No-Cook Meals

1. Seasonal Veggies: When building a meal that doesn’t require the stovetop or oven, think veggies first. Summer is the ideal time to enjoy a variety of raw veggies, from sugar snap peas to bell peppers. Invest in a spiralizer to make fresh “noodles” out of zucchini, carrots or beets. Avocados are incredibly diverse and can be transformed into anything from salad toppings to creamy sauces. Try this recipe for Caprese-Stuffed Avocados for a light twist on traditional caprese salad.

2. Pre-Made Proteins: This is also the perfect time to use canned meats such as tuna, chicken or salmon. Any of these proteins can be combined with mayonnaise, diced veggies and a few spices for a wonderfully flavorful salad. Scoop it onto crackers or into butter lettuce leaves for a crisp, refreshing meal.

3. Leafy Greens: Salads can easily become the centerpiece of the meal if you’re dreading turning on the oven. A southwestern-flavored salad with corn, black beans and tomatoes lends itself to a variety of other toppings like peppers, guacamole and salsa. Or try a Greek salad with feta cheese, kalamata olives and cucumbers.

4. Gourmet Items: Who says dinner needs to be plated? Fill up the table with platters of gourmet deli meats and cheeses, raw fruits (like figs) and veggies. Add your favorite dips, and let everyone gather around the table and build their own meal. This could easily become a picnic dinner if you want to venture to a park to eat.

Too Hot and Tired to Make a Meal?

Let us help! About the Table can prepare light, refreshing cold meals for you and your family to enjoy all summer long. Contact us here to set up a weekly meal plan.

Already a client? Ask us about including more cold meals on the menu!

New Ways to Enjoy Coffee (That Don’t Involve Sipping!)

Coffee is the latest trend in the food and beverage industry, and there are new and brilliant coffee recipes popping up every day. Millennials are driving demand for more innovative ways to consume their cup of joe, including cold brew and Bulletproof. But you can also enjoy coffee as a delicious ingredient in your summer dishes. From meat rubs to dessert sauces, coffee isn’t just for drinking anymore!

Coffee in Its Natural State

Most high-quality coffee comes from the C. arabica variety of coffee bean. The green coffee beans are contained in small red coffee berries and roasted after harvesting to attain their rich brown color. Because most coffee contains chemical residues from pesticides, organic coffee is worth purchasing if you consume it every day.

Coffee’s Health Benefits

The health benefits of coffee and caffeine are vast, but here are a few of the highlights:

• May reduce the risk of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and high blood pressure
• Improves physical performance, memory and mental alertness
• Stimulates digestion and weight loss

Our Favorite Coffee Recipes

If you’ve never tried coffee as a food addition, it’s time to change that! A few of our preferred ways to incorporate coffee include:

Coffee bean flour: Use coffee bean flour to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of your baked goods! Coffee flour can be substituted for up to 15% of flour in most recipes, but keep in mind you’ll need to add 10-25% more liquid as well.
Light roast coffee rub for roast beef or pork tenderloin: Combine ground light roast beans with salt, pepper and your spices of choice (we recommend chili powder and paprika), then rub to cover the outside of a roast and cook as you normally would. This makes a great option for summer grilling!
Mocha sauce: Warm a cup of brewed dark roast coffee on the stove and stir in baking chocolate, butter and sugar until the chocolate has dissolved. You’ll have a lovely mocha sauce to drizzle on top of whipped cream, cakes or fruit.
Espresso vinaigrette: This one is super simple—just add red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey and instant espresso to a dressing cruet and shake thoroughly. Try it on a breakfast salad with bacon, eggs and avocado, or on this grilled green salad from Bon Appetit.

Keep the Caffeine Buzz Going

Request coffee recipes as part of your event menu with our catering services. Coffee-inspired dishes are always a hit with party guests (hint: you MUST try our triple chocolate espresso brownies!). Contact us to book your next gathering.

Source: http://www.foodinsight.org/caffeine-facts-tea-coffee-chocolate-guarana-kola-nut-benefits

5 Must-Have Produce and Meal Ideas for Summer

Every season I like to introduce new meals and ingredients to my clients’ menus. It keeps things interesting, and it’s healthier, too! Mother Nature knows exactly what we need each season, and in summer, it’s all about raw, delicate fruits and veggies to keep us cool and hydrated.

Produce in season doesn’t require much preparation because it’s perfect as-is. But incorporating these fresh ingredients into your dishes in new and unique ways will add intrigue to your plate—and bring the whole family around the table.

When planning your weekly meals and snacks, take a page from About the Table. We’ll be highlighting these seasonal favorites in our clients’ menus. Add them to your grocery list or let us do it for you!

Summer Produce & Meal Ideas

Cherries: Perfectly sweet and tart, take advantage of cherries while you can (as much as you can). They’re a great snack to enjoy on the go or at the beach. You can also incorporate them into your side dishes and desserts. Think: cherries over vanilla ice cream, homemade cherry jam and this Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Feta.

Berries: Another snackable fruit to have on hand, berries are bursting with nutrients and antioxidants. Try all varieties, from strawberries to blackberries, in muesli, yogurt, smoothies and salads. Top with whipped cream for a sweet treat or macerate in balsamic vinegar to use as a sauce on grilled steaks.

Peaches: Juicy peaches are the stars of summer! And they pair perfectly with lots of unexpected ingredients. Some appetizer and meal ideas? Peach salsa over pork chops or pork tenderloin. Sliced peaches wrapped in salty prosciutto. Grilled peaches with mascarpone cheese and honey. Or, keep it simple and add raw peaches to your cheese boards for easy entertaining.

Eggplant: Ripening in July and throughout the season, eggplant is a diverse ingredient I love to cook with. Hearty dishes like eggplant parmesan and eggplant rollatini are ideal for a crowd—especially if you have vegetarians in your family. For a weekday meal, try grilled eggplant and chicken served over arugula and spinach salad.

Bell Peppers: Sliced, stuffed or stir-fried, the opportunities with bell peppers are limitless. Enjoy raw with hummus. Stuff with meat, rice and tomato sauce for a one-pan Mediterranean meal. Cut into matchsticks and add to a veggie and chicken stir fry with brown rice (one of our faves!). Peppers come in fun colors so mix and match them all to add a rainbow to your plates and platters.

Too busy this summer?
Vacation, camp, beach days, work…your schedule is probably jam-packed! Skip the fast food and let us come up with seasonal meal ideas just for you! We’ll keep you healthy and happy with fresh dishes stored in your fridge or packed in a cooler for your travels.

Contact us to get started or to request your summer favorites!

Father’s Day Dinner and Gifts for the Foodie

My favorite memories of my dad are the ones we spent enjoying a meal at the kitchen table or a restaurant. When I would visit my hometown in New Jersey from Delaware, we’d bond over food—or, more specifically, a bowl of black olives or breadsticks wrapped in prosciutto. It was our special time to catch up. And we both agreed that anything is better with a good cocktail and delicious dinner!

I attribute my business and my culinary success to my dad. He certainly cultivated my love of food. He taught me how to order steak, “as rare as the chef will let it go!” He even showed me how to truly appreciate the finer things in life, like a Tanqueray martini. To this day, I still utter his words after the first sip: “Ah, nectar of the gods!”

Not only was my dad a food connoisseur, he was also an entrepreneur. Because of him, I was able to turn my passion (and these cherished moments) into a career that lights me up day after day. The sheer joy that I get from sharing a meal is what motivated me to start About the Table. For this, and countless other reasons, I am forever grateful for my dad.

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I encourage you to treat your dad to something personal to create lasting memories. At About the Table, this time is extra meaningful, and we’d be honored to help you plan the perfect day for Dad.

Father’s Day Dinner and Gift Ideas

Special occasion dinner: Don’t worry about making a reservation in Delaware for the big day. Instead, let us prepare all of your dad’s favorite foods. Whether you’d like to enjoy Father’s Day dinner just with Dad or the whole family, we’ll bring seasonal dishes right to your door. No one has to cook. No one has to clean. Everyone gets to eat!

Cooking class: Roll up your sleeves and learn something new! Is Dad interested in baking or does he love pub fare? Has he always wanted to make pasta from scratch? We can tailor a class to suit his interests and preferences. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie in your life.

Personal chef service: Is your superdad super busy? Is he trying a new diet? Does he deserve a little relaxation time at the end of the day? Consider the gift of About the Table’s personal chef services. We’ll cook customized meals for him (or the family) so he doesn’t have to. Check out sample menus and options here.

Contact us now to book your Father’s Day dinner or special service!

Traveling This Summer? Order Meals to Go!

When beach season hits in Delaware, it’s time to head to the shore. Whether for the weekend or your annual weeklong getaway, there’s nothing better than summertime at the ocean. In addition to towels, sunscreen and those cute gladiator sandals, you can now take meals to go from About the Table!

We all know the foundation of every good beach day (or party) is the food. But heading straight to the grocery store when you arrive, and then cooking all your meals, will seriously cut into your relaxation and family time. Besides, who wants to do all that work on vacation?

Pack Travel Meals To Go

Our team is happy to prepare a luxurious picnic lunch to keep you full and satisfied between building sandcastles and surfing. We can also send you off with marinated steaks and vibrant salads for BBQs at the beach house. Need breakfast to start the day? How about homemade muffins or cheese and asparagus quiche?

We can prepare meals that are fully cooked or require minimal cooking, such as a few minutes on the grill. Just tell us about your trip, and we will help you decide what will work best. We’ll also give you simple heating, serving and packing instructions, as needed.

And it’s easier than getting a reservation…

Here’s How It Works:                 
                                                        
If you’re a current client, there’s no need to skip a week of regular service if you’re going out of town. Instead, let us know when you’re traveling and we’ll plan a menu you can enjoy on the road or at your destination. Call or email about 2 weeks in advance so we can plan accordingly.

If you’re not a current client, call or email us to learn how we can prepare meals for your getaway—or start a regular service. 302-365-0143

Sample Dishes:

• All-American Burgers
• Marinated Steak
• Tequila-Lime Chicken
• Garlic Roasted Pork Tenderloin
• Family-Style Baked Ziti
• Farmer’s Market Salad
• Quinoa Tabbouleh with Fresh Herbs
• Mini Muffins
• Egg Quiche and Casseroles

No matter your adventure, About the Table can fuel your summer excursions with customized meals to go. While you’re slowing down, we’re just heating up. Contact us for details.

Unique Mother’s Day Gifts for the Garden and Food Lover

Mother’s Day is one of my favorite holidays because it brings my family together for fantastic food and company in (usually) nice weather. There’s nothing I love more than enjoying a great meal outside with the people I care about most.

I have a close relationship with my mom, and some years I struggle to come up with unique Mother’s Day gifts that accurately express how much I appreciate her. Flowers, candy, a nice card. My mom is always grateful, but I like to surprise her with something really special (she deserves it!).

That’s why I’ve created this list of unique Mother’s Day gifts that will surely be a hit with your mom, aunt, grandmother—or whoever deserves your affection!

Gardening Tools: Does Mom dream of cultivating a garden, but lack the proper tools to make it a reality? A tool bag or carrying case full of gardening tools (don’t forget the knee pad!) and some organic seed packets may be the catalyst for getting her out in the garden. Pair the kit with a wide-brimmed sun hat and some pretty gardening gloves, and offer to spend a day helping her prepare the garden beds.

Herb Tower: If Mom lives in a city or needs to conserve space, an herb tower is a great way for her to grow herbs indoors or on a balcony. She won’t have to buy fresh herbs from the grocery store anymore, and the tower will provide a nice splash of greenery in her living space. A small watering can and herb seedlings would make a nice accompaniment for this gift.

Teatulia Tea Gift Set: Tea makes a lovely present, and I’m a big fan of Teatulia. Their organic tea gift sets are 20% off with promo code LOVEMOM through May 14. Mom will enjoy sipping a special blend, while having some much-need “me time.”

About the Table Gift Certificate: Give Mom a break from cooking with a gift certificate for personal chef services with About the Table.* From beef stroganoff to spinach and butternut squash lasagna, our menus are customizable and gift certificates are available in any amount. And what home chef doesn’t appreciate a from-scratch meal made just for them? Take a peek at our sample menus here.

Be sure to call me (Chef Bianca) for more details, and to get your gift certificate in time for Mother’s Day: 302-365-0143

*Price paid for a personal chef gift certificate is good for 1 year. Not redeemable for cash. If redeemed after 1 year, there may be additional grocery charges due to increased food costs.

Beyond the Shot: Secrets to Cooking with Tequila

Did you know tequila pairs well with other garnishes besides lime and salt—and in configurations other than shot glasses? While margaritas are a must for every Cinco de Mayo party, the dinner and dessert menu can include pops of tequila, too.

Tequila: A Cooking Alcohol?

Cooking with tequila is totally possible, much to the surprise of many home cooks. This alcohol is distilled from the blue agave plant and is native to the Jalisco region of Mexico. It typically has a distinct smokiness that can add sophistication to your meals.

In cooking, tequila binds food compounds and evaporates rapidly. This wafts those compounds into your nose and makes the food smell even better. Since cooking and eating are about using your senses, the increase in aroma elevates the flavor of the dish.

Use More Tequila This Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is coming up, so I recommend cooking with tequila in honor of the holiday! Since it’s pretty diverse, you can try it in salad dressings, marinades, sauces or desserts. Add it to a citrus-based vinaigrette, or use it to enhance the acidity in tomatoes. Tequila complements rich chocolate and helps transfer flavor compounds from marinades into meat bound for the grill.

Think: Tequila-Marinated Grilled Chicken, Mahi Mahi Tacos with Tequila-Lime Crema and Vanilla Ice Cream with Tequila-Spiked Hot Fudge.

Our Favorite Pairings

Here are a few of tequila’s flavor affinities from Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s The Flavor Bible. Mix and match items from the list below to create your own tequila-inspired dishes. Or, use these ingredients to prepare the perfect margarita!

• Chile peppers
• Cilantro
• Cointreau
• Ginger
• Grenadine
• Lemon, lime or orange juice
• Pomegranate juice
• Sage
• Vermouth

We particularly like the combination of tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and sage. Experiment and see what combinations unfold for you.

One Tequila, Two Tequila…Wait, I’m Lost

Want to do more cooking with tequila, but not sure how to incorporate it into your menu? Let us help! Our catering services can make tequila the centerpiece of your Cinco de Mayo celebration—or any occasion, for that matter. Contact us to discuss your menu.