Plant-based Healthy Holiday Cooking

One of our chefs Nadia shares her tips and recipes for plant-based healthy holiday cooking. Check out Nadia’s profile here and try out her tips and recipes below. Nadia is a trained plant-based nutritionist, so if you’re looking for healthy holiday foods, get in touch with her! Her cooking class would be a great start.

The holidays are a happy time of year where we share and create happy memories with our loved ones. For those who eat a plant-based diet, it’s also an amazing time to share the delicious comfort foods you eat.

A plant-based diet includes a variety of vegetables, greens, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. The diet limits or excludes meat, dairy, oils, sugar, and processed foods. There is decades worth of evidence-based research from countless sources showing that this diet lowers the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  There are also many who choose to eat plant-based or vegan for ethical and environmental reasons. 

Holidays and family gatherings tend to be centered around food. Whether it’s turkey, mashed potatoes, or holiday cookies, it is all laden with tons of butter, dairy, and sugar. For anyone trying to eat healthy and not wanting to pack on those holiday pounds, it is a tough few months!  

To help you successfully stay on track this holiday season, here are a few of my favorite tips:

  • Bring a delicious healthy meal to share. Show others that eating a healthier meal doesn’t mean depriving yourself. 
  • A few easy food swaps include using coconut milk instead of dairy, vegetable broth instead of a meat-based broth, and using the leftover boiled potato “water” instead of butter in mashed potatoes.
  • If you’re going to a holiday party, eat something before you go so that you’re less likely to indulge.
  • Keep a positive mindset. Focus on what you can eat, not on what you can’t eat!
  • Start a new fun family tradition like entering a Thanksgiving, or “Turkey Trot” 5K

Need some food inspiration? Check out two of my favorite plant-based recipes for the holidays!

Apple Pecan Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup raw pecans
  • 7 ounces arugula
  • 1 tart apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 sweet red apple, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 pinch each sea salt and black pepper
  • 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Recipe:

  1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 F.
  2. On a baking sheet, add raw pecans and bake for 8-10 minutes. This will bake much faster in a air fryer or toaster oven so watch carefully that the pecans don’t burn. In the air fryer/toaster oven, it may be done in 2-3 minutes.
  3. Bake until pecans are a deep brown and fragrant (but not burned!). Remove from oven and then immediately remove from pan.
  4. While your pecans are baking, in a large serving bowl, add arugula, sliced apples, sliced onions, and cranberries.
  5. In a jar, add dressing ingredients to a jar and shake until well combined.
  6. Add pecans to salad and dressing. Toss to combine.
  7. Let the salad sit for at least 15 minutes to let the flavors meld together. Enjoy!

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Adapted from Minimalist Baker

Filling:

  • 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked brown or green lentils (rinsed and drained)
  • 4 cups low-salt vegetable stock (oil-free if possible)
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 10-ounce bag frozen mixed veggies: peas, carrots, green beans, and corn

Mashed Potatoes:

  • 3 pounds yukon gold potatoes, partially peeled and washed
  • 3-4 Tbsp vegan butter, leftover potato “water”, or almond milk (use more for creamier consistency)
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Cube potatoes, place in a large pot and fill with water until potatoes are covered.
  2. Bring to a boil, add salt, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Check for doneness after 20 minutes by inserting a fork or knife through potatoes. If the knife doesn’t insert easily, cook longer until done.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Lightly oil a 2 quart baking dish with avocado oil or vegan butter.
  4. On the stovetop, heat ¼ cup water on medium in a large pan. Saute onions and garlic for 5-8 minutes until lightly browned.
  5. Add lentils, vegetable stock, thyme, sea salt, and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover pot. After 25 minutes, add frozen vegetables. Total cook time is 35-40 minutes until lentils are cooked through and tender. 
  6. Once potatoes are cooked, remove potatoes but save the potato water for step 7.
  7. Add potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Add vegan butter or potato water (if oil-free), salt, and pepper. Use a masher or fork until you get the consistency and taste you’re happy with. Adjust seasonings and butter/water.
  8. When lentils and potatoes are done, add lentil mixture to your baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes. Use a fork to smooth it down. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.
  9. Place dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until mashed potatoes are lightly browned.

Nadia Quraishi, CL.N. of Nourished by Nadia is a Holistic Nutritionist and also Plant-based Certified from eCornell and T. Colin Campbell for Nutrition Studies. Her mission is to spread awareness about the benefits of a whole foods diet.  Using evidence-based nutrition, she helps her clients transition to eating a healthier lifestyle. Nadia also teaches fun plant-based cooking classes in New Jersey. These classes are perfect for a fun night out or a corporate team-building activity. 
To learn more about Nadia’s services and products, please visit nourishedbynadia.com. For her upcoming monthly cooking classes, visit https://plant-based-cooking.eventbrite.com.

See our chefs in action!

I wanted to share some of the awesome work by our chefs and the feedback from clients. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a satisfied client or a happy guest.  

Leah worked at our launch event over the weekend and engaged our little guests with making Halloween cookies. It was a huge hit and kids were excited to eat or take home their witch hats, mummies and spiders. Leah offers kids cooking parties including cookie decorating and baking and is absolutely wonderful with kids! 

Halloween cookie decorating with Chef Leah

Rene worked as a party host helper for a Diwali event. The host needed kitchen help (set up, maintenance and cleanup of food stations) and an extra set of hands in general. The family that hired Rene gave excellent feedback for Rene and said she was extremely personable, professional and courteous and kept checking in on them. She was respectful of cultural norms and practices and went above and beyond what they expected of her.

Rene helping out at a Diwali event

Please feel free to reach out to these or other chefs for your next event or cooking need, and shoot me a note at nivi@chefmicasa.com if you want to book one of them!

How to create a great chef profile

Why profiles matter

As a chef looking to provide cooking services in someone’s home, your profile needs to position you in the best light possible. It should be welcoming so people feel comfortable enough to reach out. Cooking is a very personal experience, and there may be apprehension about having a new chef in the kitchen. That’s why your personality needs to shine through. Here’s what you need for a great profile:

  1. Choose a clean, professional profile photo: Use a photo that will make you look professional and approachable. A photo with a chef apron or jacket will be great, but if not, a clean semi-professional/professional picture will work!
  2. Share some awesome food pictures: This is one of the most powerful ways to set yourself apart. Profiles with photos get 3x response rates compared to ones without photos. 
  3. Define your service offerings: Customers need to know exactly what they are booking and how much they are paying for your service (just like what they would expect at a restaurant). Define your service offering as a package. In our experience, simply setting an hourly rate is not very helpful as customers have no idea how long you’ll take, or know what you will be making for them. A well defined package or service offering gives assurance and clarity to the customer.  
  4. Create trust: Share any information that will help build trust with customers. Your profile should showcase your cooking skills and people skills in a positive light. Having a profile photo is already a great first step, but additional info such as ServSafe certification, customer reviews etc. go a long way! We will be introducing background checks and reviews in future versions of our app, but if you’re able to build that into your profile at this time, there’s nothing like it!

Create your profile here!

Be your own guest!

You love hosting and sharing good times with friends, but the work that goes into planning, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning is just exhausting. Add to that the number of tasks that need to get done when the guests are around – serving appetizers, setting up entrees, managing the food stations, pouring drinks…a party host never gets to be his or her own guest!

Here is Katy who worked at one of the BBQ parties on labor day weekend. Katy’s impressive knife skills (see the cheese board) and yummy baked mac n’ cheese won over the little guests! Katy took over the grill, served guests and cleaned out the sink and dishes. Wow! What an awesome treat for our client to finally enjoy her own party and not wake up to a sink full of dishes. See Katy’s profile here.

Knife skills do make a difference!
Katy working the grill
Dishes all done

Email nivi@chefmicasa.com to hire help for your next party! Our chefs are personally interviewed and have undergone background checks to ensure our clients have a safe and memorable experience.

Labor day weekend ideas – the shortcut to a great time!

With only one week away before Labor Day 2019, your To-Do list is growing, and your time is waning away making those fun End of Summer activities a chore. You’ve been wanting to entertain your guests but are feeling overwhelmed. The list goes on with all the work to do to ensure your guests are comfortable. You have all these awesome ideas but where do you start?

Start with a refresher drink – the Mojito is our favorite pick! It is easy to make, refreshing and looks great too. Lime, mint, rum, sugar and club soda and 10 minutes is all you need to fix yourself a perfect summer drink.

Wondering what to do with the meats? Choose a dry rub recipe with bold flavors and strong aromatics and rub your grilling proteins a minimum 3 hours before cooking. After you’ve given your meat a lovely deep tissue massage, let it chill in a very cold place just until you serve it. The deep chill locks in the delicious juices while the spice rub gently softens the meat. Our favorite picks for the dry rubs are cajun seasoning, mesquite seasoning and curry rub. Put these on different meats and kabobs and enjoy a healthy and tasty protein with a side of salad.

End your summer party with colorful and healthy fruit kabobs. When you mix color, consistency and flavor together, Viola! You have a dish that even the most discerning Food Critic would approve of!

So you’ve done all the work but do you want to enjoy your own party just as much as the guests? Getting some help is not a bad idea. Someone to serve that mojito, work the grill and cut/assemble those pretty fruit kabobs. A helping hand to clean up and organize your stuff. Someone to keep your sanity in check!

Get in touch with us to hire a party helper for your upcoming BBQ (limited to Central NJ at this time). We are offering a $200 special for 6 hours of help. Email nivi@chefmicasa.com so we can help you with your upcoming party.

Liven your party with a live cooking station

Looking for a fun way to host your next party? An authentic live station is always an exciting way to cook and serve food. It is sure to be a hit!

Here’s a sample menu for your next pasta station:

Choice of pasta: Angel hair, mini ravioli or tortellini, penne

Choice of sauce: Rose or vodka, marinara or creamy alfredo or basic olive oil saute

Vegetables to saute: Baby Peas, Sundried or Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Red & Yellow Peppers, Fresh Baby Spinach, Artichoke hearts, Julienne Vegetables (carrots and squash), fresh Mushrooms (Baby Portabella or Shiitake)

Your choice of meat: Chicken, shrimp, sausage

Add a side of nice crusty bread or rolls and some mini tiramisu and panna cotta to complete the classic Italian theme!

Please email nivi@chefmicasa.com to request a quote (note: we can only do small parties for 30-50 guests at this time)