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Micole Khemarrica
Yea, long time no post....  Been off computer a lot lately, working in the garden, cooking, and researching mostly via my iPad mini.

The above title is still a work in progress - California now allows home kitchens to create some food products for direct sale without going through massive FDA regulations and kitchen inspections.  Called the California Homemade Food Act, otherwise known as Cottage Food Operations, it allows home businesses to create canned and bakery products (no dairy or meat based products) to sell directly to local consumers (i.e. farmers markets) with a single permit (not including any permits the farmers markets may want, like Servsafe food handlers certificates) paid to the county and not the state.  In spite of its tight regulations on the type of food and how it can be sold, it's actually a great way to jump start food-based home businesses.

As my personal chef business is still struggling to get off the ground, adding a side business like this would help me both in the short and long term... And being the geek I am, I couldn't help with the math/programming puns. :)

So, the Idea for me is a website which lists the current crop of canning fun and seasonal pie choices, year-round pie choices, and specialty condiments.  As the current law requires me to personally hand someone their purchase, and I don't have the stock or funds to get into farmers' markets yet, the website is mostly for information and orders to be picked up.  As I know a lot of out of town folks who would love to buy my stuff, I will have a FurtherConfusion delivery option, paid via website and then handed over at the con, thus satisfying the legal restrictions (no Internet shipping out of county!)

So, now I need to get the required permit, which number is then posted on all labels of product (nutritional labels are optional), buy labels to fit all the information on them, buy a lot more canning supplies, get my website up and start taking orders. :)

Oh, for the curious, my latest canning fun is tomato sauce using veggies and herbs from my organic garden.... And we have a ton of tomatoes still ripening on the forest of tomato plants so anger batch will certainly be made.

Current Location: Silicon Valley
Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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As of 12:55pm EDT, my chronological age increased by one.  Yes, I survived another revolution around Sol, for the 46th time.  I figured I'll just have friends come over Saturday and do silly stuff like play board games, make homemade Peeps, hit the jacuzzi, and in general have fun.

Current Location: At home
Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Current Music: Depeche Mode -- Personal Jesus

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So, having been out of a professional kitchen for 3 years, and knowing this Personal Chef job will entail small home-kitchens, I expected I'll need several practice runs to figure out timing, what I need to bring, etc.  My first practice run turned out to be a real challenge, though: a couple who are trying the Whole30 diet.  Whole30 is a more extreme version of the Paleo diet which removes all grains, legumes, sugars, and (in the Whole30's case) dairy.  The only 'legal' sugar is natural fruit juices, and fruits are allowed on the diet but in small quantities.  Any proteins must come from certified organic sources, free of antibiotics and GMOs and all that.

The first part of the challenge was the menu.  After some diligent research, I came up with 20 different entrees and 10 different sides the couple could choose from (5 entrees and 5 sides were what I planned on making).  The next part of the challenge was making some fresh condiments for them -- olive oil mayonnaise and pomegranate mustard.  I also whipped up a "Ras el Hanout" blend for one recipe that called for it.  As one of the items they picked used Jicama, I bought that early to cook in the crockpot for 12 hours prior to the cook date.

The menu they chose is as follows:
Salmon a L'Afrique du Nord -- a salmon filet marinaded then grilled
Pineapple Red Curry Duck -- pieces of duck, pineapple, and red pepper floating in a red curry sauce
Macadamia Chicken with Tangerine-Ginger Sauce -- a variation of a fried chicken, served with a creamy tangerine-ginger sauce
Cinnamon Beef Stew  -- exotic flavors of cinnamon and cumin mix in a slowly simmered stock with chunks of beef, carrots and onions.
Moroccan Meatballs -- Ground Lamb, cumin and parsley meatballs cooked in a spice-filled sauce.

Curried Onion and Ginger Soup -- caramelized sweet onions and fresh ginger are stewed in coconut milk
Creamy Spice-Market Kale -- Ras el Hanout spice blend saturates the braised Kale
Cumin Roasted Rainbow Carrots -- Rainbow Carrots add a festive look, the cumin adds an exotic smell.
Cauliflower Confetti "Rice" -- Riced Cauliflower becomes the base for this pilaf with carrots and peppers.
Jicama Home Fries -- The "Mexican Potato" lives up to its name, the caramelized onions brings out the flavor.

Now that I have a finalized menu, made a few preparatory items, and built a timeline, it was time to pack my car.  I managed to get both large tote bins and the smaller tool bin and the dolly into the trunk; my knives, spice bag, and coolers filled with ice-packs made due with my car's back seat.

Then I discovered Murphy riding my back.....

There was an accident on the 280 that ended up blocking traffic on both sides of the freeway, and I got caught in it.  I let my friend know I'll be late, and waited it out to get to a couple of stores.  First store was an asian supermarket that didn't have the roast duck... neither did 99 Ranch Market, although they did sell fresh duck.  Whole Foods pretty much covered everything (even duck, although it was flash frozen), so I got the shopping done in decent time, but because of the traffic issue I was now 2 hours behind schedule.

I reached their apartment complex and discovered a new challenge: getting all my stuff up a flight of 1970's-height stairs.  This apartment omplex was not handicapped-accessable by any stretch of the imagination, so I braced myself and lugged my dolly up those stairs. *whew*  Thankfully, their apartment was on the 'ground floor' so I didn't need to navigate more stairs. Next came the biggest challenge: cooking in a tiny all-electric galley kitchen.

14 hours later, I was finished.  Prep took a lot longer than I planned, the cooking took longer, the cooling and packaging took time, but I managed to get everything done.

I slept most of Saturday and still have a sore thoracic spine from all the heavy pulling, but I'm happy to report the first comments back were very good.  Yay!

Lessons learned from first run:
1) Prep more stuff prior to cook date.
2) Evaluate what tools got used and what didn't, to lighten my load.
3) Bungie cords for the dolly would be good -- a truck may be better.
4) Cook more meals at home to get my rusty knife skills back up to snuff.

Onto the next victim -- err, volunteer! :D

Current Mood: tired tired

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I have now completed the certification to be a Personal Chef, and got my CA Food Handler's Certificate.  I've got an appointment with SCORE next week to help my idea become presentable for a bank or the SBA to give me a loan, and I'm working on what my start-up costs will be (not cheap, but nowhere near as bad as a brick-and-mortar concept) so now I've taken a little time and worked on my logos:

I made the initials logo as a means to put on my Chef Jacket and on product labels.  It's a good thing I'm an artist -- designing a company logo is a rather expensive proposition.  Of course, I still have to set up a website, but at least I have the domain.  Now to get the business license, insurance, and business bank account set up.  Whew!

Current Mood: busy busy

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I am looking for houses to invade and practice my Client Assessment and cooking in strange kitchens.  So.... for the cost of groceries, you can have a CIA-trained chef visit and make you and yours some fabulous food.  I'll take the first 5 people to send me private mail here and schedule Assessment appointments!

(and yes, I'm thinking about selling my services at the next charity auction... in case you miss out on this opportunity.)

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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

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Usually, I get butterflies in my stomach whenever something is about to happen that's life changing for me...

This week I have plunged into a training program to become a certified Personal Chef.  The classic Personal Chef is someone who visits clients at least once a month or more, brings groceries and tools to the client's house, prepares several meals at once in the client's kitchen, chills, packages, and labels them, leaves reheating instructions, and leaves the client's house without a trace outside of the note on the fridge and a fridge/freezer full of nutritious, customized, diet specific food.  For people with allergies or dietary restrictions this is a great service.  For time-impacted professionals who want to eat healthier and are tired of going out to restaurants all the time, this is an economical option.  For new moms, this is a godsend.  For gay couples who want to cook more at home but don't have the time and/or the knowledge, my cooking class dinner dates makes it an event in the comfort of their home.  I almost have too many potential clients I can help!

As my culinary forte is a bit outside the mainstream, I will also be working with re-enactors, SCA, belly dancing groups, Victorian/Edwardian, etc. to provide a different meal experience.  Both for events and for home use, I can research any historical cuisine of interest and add items into the menu for a change of space.  I already have a couple of gigs being plotted for this summer where my unique skills are perfect for the job.  Research, talking to people, teaching and cooking.... I was made to be a personal chef! :D

Oh, there's a difference between a Personal Chef and a Private Chef -- personal chef is someone running a business helping many clients, a private chef is an employee who lives with and cooks for one family.

Current Location: United States, California, San Jose
Current Mood: bouncy bouncy

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So far, this has been my best season for pies, and there's still a month left of the Holiday season.  The harvest has been good, with lots of pomegranate jelly, pumpkin, and apple pies.  Now, there are lemons, limes, and rose hips to process.  There are fuyu persimmons still on the tree, so I should look into ways to use them too.

On the job front, I'm still unemployed.  I've been looking into becomming a Personal Chef, but the training, certification, and association fees is nearly $1000, so that plan will have to wait.    My best hope at this point is to find a job at a good restaurant or banquet hall, but in the meantime at least I'm making a little money with my pies, and I'm happy to be baking.

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Current Mood: chipper chipper

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Well, mostly... there's still maybe 10 pomegranates hanging on the tree, but they're rather inaccessible at the moment (need a ladder and/or a fruit picker).  But this year's harvest yielded almost 2 gallons of cold-pressed juice, which means my team of helpers and I slowly pried all the arils from the pith, then squeezed them in cheesecloth to avoid crushing the seeds inside which would release bitter agents into the juice.  The resulting juice was sweet and mellow compared to PomWonderful and similar mechanized-processed pomegranate juice.

I did a batch of pomegranate jelly a few weeks ago, when we started this processing, and this weekend I finished using all the juice to make more jelly, some hand made Grenadine, and finally Pomegranate Molasses (which can be used like Balsamic Vinegar).

Pomegranate Harvest 2012

The molasses just came out of the hot-water canner, so they're too hot for their labels at the moment.

Current Mood: amused amused

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For the curious (thank you, tuftears) Here are the current details and at least one picture of my pies.

Dancing Stoat Pumpkin Pie

Spicy Pumpkin Pie: Using local-grown heritage pumpkins known for their flavor and fine-grained flesh, this pie is loaded with spices and yet balanced to still bring out the pumpkin goodness.  No fluff here, this is a solid pie, capable of being eaten out of hand (as I've done many a time).  
Price: $20 per pie
Special deal: 2 pies for $30 if you pre-order.

Special Needs Pie: Allergies? On a diet?  I can make the above pumpkin pie Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, and/or Lactose-Free (and yes, I've made one that was all three).  Still every bit as tasty and yet digestable for those who have dietary restrictions.
Price: $20 per pie

Apple Pie:  Limited Edition!  I managed to harvest a some apples from our backyard tree which is an heirloom variety once popular in Northern California but is now an endangered cultivar.  Along with a known great cooking apple, the Braeburn, this pie is flavorful with just a little tartness, stuffed with apples and covered in a lattice crust.  I think I have enough apples to make a half-dozen pies, so get your order in early!
Price: $20 per pie

Mincemeat:  This year will feature a sampler-pack of mincemeat, as I don't have enough of any one to make whole pies.  On the bright side, you can help choose which mincemeat I'll be making for next year!  There are three varieties: Elizabethan, PostWar, and Modern.  
  1. Elizabethan is close to the ancestoral original mincemeat (I'm still hunting for the Medieval version), and is a SAVORY pie, "completely uncceptable for tea time " -- Hillary Spurling
  2. PostWar was handed down through the Rombauer family (Of Joy of Cooking fame), and is equal parts meat and fruit, less sweet than a modern recipe but definitely a dessert mincemeat.
  3. Modern was gleaned from online reasearch and newpaper articles on mincemeat, where there is no longer any meat in the recipe at all.  Very much a sweet dessert pie with a hint of savory from suet.
For those who are curious about the evolution of mincemeat, there is the Sampler Pack of all three flavors, four mini-pies each, for $15.

For those who know they only want one kind of mincemeat, I have the Personal Pie: a small (5") deep dish pie for $8.  Specify which mincemeat you want.

You can send me private mail for pie requests. I accept Paypal, checks and cash.  First come, first served.  I will be making pies through December.

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Current Mood: creative creative

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Sorry I've been lax in posting, but having been unemployed this long has me fighting depression, and when I'm depressed I *don't* log in and spout my black mood upon others, I tend to go hide under a rock for a while.  I've had several interviews, but nothing panned out, so now I'm in the process of completely revamping my resume with a focus on management skills -- which is where I really want to be.  As much as I love cooking, my forte has always been in QA (or, in hospitality terms, Food Safety) and organization -- which means management rather than chef.

In the meantime, it's Pie Season again so I'm getting a list of customers organized.  Alas, without an income, I don't have the money to ship pies out this year, so I'll only be doing local deliveries, but considering I sold 15 pies last year with no pre-orders, I should do well this year.  Also, I'm expanding the product list: Spicy Pumpkin, Special Needs Pumpkin (I can make gluten-free, lactose-free & sugar-free), Apple (from our heritage apple tree), and a Mincemeat "through the Ages" sampler (I have 3 separate recipes, from 1603, 1950's, and 2007 to show the evolution of mincemeat).  WIth the pomegranate tree overloaded, I should make some jellies and ice cream from this year's harvest.  So, in general I'm trying to keep busy.

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Current Location: United States, California, San Jose
Current Mood: apathetic apathetic

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