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November 17, 2022

The Great Turkey Shortage of 2022

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This year’s massive turkey shortage may leave people scrambling to find their Thanksgiving turkey.

For years, the price of turkeys has been climbing due to inflation and rising costs of labor, fuel, fertilizer, and food for livestock. On top of that, a particularly deadly strain of avian flu hit in 2022, wiping out over 50 million birds across 43 states, including 6 million turkeys. In Utah’s Sanpete County alone, nearly half a million turkeys have died from the disease.

What does that mean for home chefs?

Well, unless you’re willing to pay an arm and a drumstick for your Thanksgiving protein this year, you basically have three alternatives:

1. Buy your turkey now

If you and your family have your hearts set on turkey, then time is of the essence. Already, 2022 turkey prices in the US have nearly doubled over last year, and prices will likely go up even more as Thanksgiving gets closer and supplies dwindle.

2. Look at alternative meats

Maybe this is the year to skip the tom altogether and grace your Thanksgiving table with a totally different kind of meat. Let’s be honest: many of your guests would probably prefer a succulent braised chicken to a traditional turkey. Chicken is still relatively affordable and easier to prepare, especially if you decide to spare yourself the trouble and just buy a rotisserie chicken this year.

Other meats that have been hits at our past Thanksgiving tables include short ribs, ham, and pork roast. If you want to stay true to history, duck, goose, and fish were probably on that first Pilgrim Thanksgiving table. (Passenger pigeon was also on the fare, but orders for passenger pigeon are no longer being filled.) Fish is an especially great choice to replace Thanksgiving turkey. Fall is the perfect time of year to enjoy fresh trout because their meat is at its peak flavor as they fatten up for winter.

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3. Go Vegetarian

Finally, there’s always the option of going vegetarian for your Thanksgiving protein…unless you’re afraid of starting a holiday riot.

Quinoa is a good source of protein, and it's versatile enough to be used in appetizers, salads, entrées, or desserts. Alternatively, you can drive all thoughts of turkey out of your guests’ minds as they dig into a Vegetarian Lasagna Bolognese or a hearty Mac and Cheese.

If you’ve ever longed to replace your Thanksgiving turkey with something more tasty (and less stressful to prepare), this year’s turkey shortage may be just the excuse you need!

Happy holidays from us all at Culinary Crafts. Eat well!

November 10, 2022

Pumpkin Chipotle Chicken Chili

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Every year, around this time, our father makes his famous Pumpkin Chipotle Chicken Chili.

Even though Dad is officially retired, he can be seen here in the kitchen practically every day making lunches for the team, helping out in a crunch, or sharing the awesome culinary expertise he gained over decades of catering. His Pumpkin Chipotle Chicken Chili is a favorite with the team here at Culinary Crafts: seriously, it is sooo good! It’s like a spicy, warm, welcoming Thanksgiving hug.

One of the key ingredients in Pumpkin Chipotle Chicken Chili—and in a lot of the other delicious, picante dishes Dad makes—is the combination of seasonings we refer to simply as “Ron’s Spice.” When you mix up a batch of the spice (see recipe below), we recommend making plenty of extra to keep on hand. It’s perfect for kicking up the flavor profile of fish, steak, chicken…basically any protein. The fire of the cayenne is balanced beautifully by the other sweet and savory spices. You’ll be amazed how many recipes will benefit from a little of Ron’s Spice.

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Pumpkin Chipotle Chicken Chili

(Makes two gallons)

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Ron’s Spice Blend (see directions below)
  • 4 lb chicken tenders
  • 1 large purple onion, diced
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 chipotles, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 (28 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 4 (15 oz) cans pumpkin
  • 4 (15 oz) cans black beans, drained
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups sour cream
Instructions:
  1. Dry brine the chicken tenders by rubbing them in ½ cup of Ron’s Spice and letting them rest for 1-2 hours.
  2. In a large pot, sauté the chicken tenders over medium-high heat. Once browned, remove chicken from pot and dice into bite-size pieces.
  3. Deglaze the pot with a few Tbsp of water or white wine. Add butter and onion to soak up all the flavor from the browned remains (the “fond”) left over in the pot. Add another ½ cup of Ron’s Spice and the diced chipotles. Let it all bloom together until chipotles are tender.
  4. Add garlic and let it brown for 60 seconds. Add tomato paste and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
  5. Add diced tomatoes, pumpkin, black beans, chicken stock, and browned chicken. Bring to simmer for 30 minutes, then remove from heat. Add 4 cups sour cream.

Ron’s Spice Blend

(Makes 2.5 cups)

Mix together:

  • 8 Tbsp salt (kosher or any other kind without iodine or other chemical additives)
  • 4 Tbsp white pepper
  • 4 Tbsp black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp oregano
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 4 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 4 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne

Pro Tips: Any kind of salt will work so long as it has no iodine or other added chemicals. Also, feel free to kick up the heat level with as much cayenne as you and your guests can handle!

October 27, 2022

Pumpkin Spice Up Your Life!

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If your favorite part of autumn is the return of pumpkin spice, we feel you!

That first chill in the air makes us start salivating for that sweet, fragrant flavor we all love. But rather than waiting for that magical moment when pumpkin spice appears in bakeries and coffee shops, why not make it yourself? Homemade pumpkin spice in less expensive than store-bought, and it tastes way better when you make it fresh. Plus, you can fine-tune the flavors until you reach pumpkin perfection!

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This recipe is great on lattes and smoothies, as well as pumpkin pie, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and bread. But it’s also fantastic on roasted vegetables, in warm soups and stews, stirred into oatmeal, or sprinkled over applesauce, ice cream, or gelato. Yum!

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Homemade Pumpkin Spice

INGREDIENTS (makes 3 Tbsp)

  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • Optional: ¼ tsp ginger

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Congratulate yourself on how easy that was!
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Like other spices, homemade spice is best when fresh ground. If it doesn’t get gobbled up right away, you can store your spice in an airtight container for up to three years.

HEALTHY AND DELICIOUS

Not only is homemade pumpkin spice amazingly delicious and easy to make, it’s also surprisingly good for you! Nutmeg and cloves are high in antioxidants and have been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial effects. Both nutmeg and allspice have anti-cancer properties, and ginger is strongly anti-inflammatory. Also, some studies indicate that cinnamon is great for balancing blood sugar levels, while allspice has numerous health benefits.

Enjoy, and eat well!

September 8, 2022

Brioche Bread PBJ

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Peanut butter and jelly (or jam) sandwiches are icons of American childhood. In fact, the average American kid eats more than 1,500 PBJs before graduating high school and will consume almost 3,000 over their lifetime. The PBJ is a perennial favorite in school lunches and after-school snacks because it's delicious, quick, simple, and cheap to make. But it can be so much better with homemade brioche bread!

If you were like most kids, the sandwiches you grew up on were made with highly-processed, store-bought bread that was...unremarkable. Let’s be honest; the bread was just there to help get the jelly and the peanut butter into our mouths.

Well, it’s time for the PBJ to get an upgrade. Our Brioche Bread PBJ uses a rich, buttery bread that makes the perfect complement to the sweet and nutty goodness inside. And all of it—the bread, jam, and peanut butter—can be made at home fresh from scratch.

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BRIOCHE

The star of this next-level PBJ sandwich is the brioche bread.

Brioche is made with eggs and butter, which puts it in the family of breads called viennoisseries, along with baguettes, croissants, Danish pastries, and sweet rolls. It’s so delicious that it’s practically a dessert sandwich! (In fact, this brioche dough can also be used to make mouth-watering doughnuts.)

A word of warning: before you tackle brioche, we strongly recommend using a stand mixer. Brioche dough needs to be kneaded a lot. The butter and egg yolk fat that give brioche its rich flavor also interfere with the ability of yeast to make the dough rise, so the dough is too sticky and thick to be kneaded by hand unless you’re looking for a major workout! Don’t even try using an electric hand mixer or you’ll risk burning out the motor.

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Ingredients for Brioche (makes 1 loaf)

  • 6 oz. water
  • 1.2 oz. milk
  • 0.5 Tbsp yeast
  • 0.9 oz sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 oz. bread flour
  • 1 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 0.75 tsp salt
  • 1 oz. melted butter

Instructions for Brioche:

  1. Add flours, sugar, yeast, and salt to a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
  2. In a separate container, mix the milk, butter, and water. Stir and add the eggs. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl.
  3. Mix on first speed until combined, then continue mixing on 2nd speed for 20 more minutes or until the dough clings to the paddle and the sides of the bowl are clean. Check the consistency of the dough. It should still feel a little bit tacky and have a smooth, glossy surface. You may have to add a little extra bread flour if the dough is too soft.
  4. Flour your hands, then place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Shape the dough into a single loaf or, if you want to make bun-style sandwiches, divide the dough into six equal parts, then roll each portion into a ball. If you want to give your brioche loaf a weave or other decorative design, place your covered dough in the fridge and let it chill until it can be handled easily. Then you can shape in into whatever beautiful design strikes your fancy.
  5. Place the dough into a greased loaf pan or, if you want roll-style sandwiches, divide it into six even dough balls and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place as the yeast does its magic! In 1-3 hours, the dough should at least double in size.
  6. To give your brioche a gorgeous golden sheen, beat one egg and brush the egg wash lightly over the top of your dough.
  7. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and firm.
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FREEZER JAM

The jams we make take advantage of the natural sweetness of fresh fruits that are in season. Practically any berry or fruit will do, so feel free to experiment!

Ingredients for Jam (makes 2-3 cups)

  • 8 cups fresh fruit—cleaned, seeded, and peeled
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (Depending on how fresh and sweet your fruit is, you’ll want to use between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of sugar for each pound of fruit.)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Fresh lemons vary in acidity, so it’s best to use bottled lemon juice.)

You can add pectin, but fruits already contain pectin naturally and will gel on their own. Add pectin if you like your jam to be thicker. (But if you add pectin, use a higher temperature to cook your jam so that the pectin will activate.)

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Instructions for Jam

  1. Place fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a large pan. Heat on medium low, stirring to prevent scalding.
  2. Continue to reduce jam until desired consistency is reached. At the right consistency, foam will stop forming on the surface of the jam. The best way to make sure your jam is done cooking is the frozen plate test.
  3. Cool before use. Unused jam can be placed in labeled containers and stored in freezer or fridge. If you use glass jars, make sure the jars are heated or the jam is cooled before it’s poured into the jars.

Pro Tips: You can speed up the cooking process by using high heat, but you’ll need to stir constantly. Mashing the fruit in advance will also cut down the cooking time which also preserves more fresh flavor.

For peach jam, add 2 tsp cinnamon. For apple butter, use apple juice and add 1Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 2 tsp cloves, then simmer and puree.

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PEANUT BUTTER

You probably won’t save any money making your own peanut butter versus buying it at that store, but if you’ve come this far making homemade PBJs, don’t you want to go all the way?

Besides, our peanut butter is simple and delicious. A word of caution though: we recommend using a food processor, not a blender. Grinding peanuts into butter will heat up a machine’s motor, and most blenders aren’t up to the job.

Ingredients for Peanut Butter (makes 2-3 cups)

  • 2-3 cups dry roasted peanuts (Don’t use more than 2 cups of peanuts unless your food processor is 7-cups or bigger)

Instructions for Peanut Butter

  1. Make sure that peanuts are roasted and their skins are completely removed. Also remove the hearts of the peanuts, those tiny nubs between the two halves of the nut. They have a slightly bitter taste.
  2. If you want your peanut butter to be chunky, place 1/3 cup of peanuts in food processor and pulse into small pieces. Set peanut pieces aside.
  3. Place remaining peanuts into processor and run for 1 minutes. Do not add water. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Repeat this process until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. Pay attention to your food processor’s motor. Don’t let it overheat! Give it a break as often as needed to let it cool down.
  5. You’ll see your peanuts turn into a powder, then a dough, and then a paste. Don’t worry. Roasted peanuts will release their own oils, so be patient. Eventually, you’ll end up with smooth, creamy butter!
  6. Once your butter is fully processed, you can add a pinch of salt to taste.
  7. If you want even creamier butter, you can add a little vegetable oil to your processor. If you want your peanut butter chunky, remove your fully-processed butter from your food processor and gently stir in your peanut pieces from step 2.

Pro Tip: Some people love to add 1 ½ tsp honey. Or you might want to experiment with adding a little cocoa powder and powdered sugar. It’s your peanut butter; you’ve earned the right to go wild!

Best wishes for the new school year and all the school lunches ahead.

Eat well!

August 30, 2022

Full-Service Catering: The Culinary Crafts Mission

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Last Saturday we catered a gorgeous wedding at Midway, Utah’s beautiful River Bottoms Ranch. During the photo shoot, one of the brides was having trouble keeping part of her dress in place. The planner had forgotten to bring fashion tape, so she approached a member of our team and asked him if, by any chance, he might have some tape to help fix a dress.

“Like this?” he offered, producing a roll of fashion tape.

The planner was stunned. “Why do you have that?” she marveled.

He smiled. “We try to be ready for anything. You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve seen.”

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It’s true.

As Utah’s top full-service caterer over the past 35+ years, we’ve handled everything from wardrobe malfunctions to faulty plumbing to venue kitchen equipment that stopped working in the middle of service. We’ve weathered scorching heat and sudden snowstorms, dealt with misbehaving pets and misbehaving guests, helped moms with fussy babies, cleaned up messes, and met more emergency deadlines than Dinner Impossible.

Being ready for surprises is part of our job.

In fact, if you look inside one of our emergency kits you’ll see evidence of the surprises we've dealt with and the lessons we’ve learned over the years. Safety pins and bobby pins, fire extinguishers, feminine products, gaffers tape (even better than duct tape), sunscreen, breath mints, batteries, jumper cables, dryer sheets (great for repelling bugs), needles and thread, hair ties…the list goes on.

And, of course, you’ll also see plenty of those universal necessities: towels. (Douglas Adams wasn’t wrong.)

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Full-Service Catering

Being ready to handle any contingency is part of what makes us different from many other services that are called “catering” nowadays. Unlike food catering (where a restaurant or other company prepares the food, drops it off, and maybe helps serve and clean up afterwards), full-service catering covers every aspect of your event from planning and set-up to final take-down and clean-up. Hiring a full-service caterer means that, no matter what issues arise, you can relax knowing that it will be taken care of, and your day will go off without a hitch—or at least, if there are hitches, your guests will never know about them.

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Our team has put out all manner of metaphorical fires over the years. We’ve scrubbed dance floors on hands and knees, shoveled guests out of snowbanks, and even thrown ourselves in front of sprinklers that turned on suddenly in the middle of a garden party. But the way we see it, full-service catering is about more than just being ready for emergencies. It’s a philosophy that governs what we do and but why we do it.

The Alfred Ethic

In the movie Batman Begins, Michael Caine’s character, Alfred, delivers a line that captures the essence of what we strive to be. At a low point in the movie, Batman/Bruce Wayne turns to his family’s butler and asks, “Why do you give a damn, Alfred? It’s not your family.”

Alfred replies, “I give a damn because a good man once made me responsible for what was most precious to him in the whole world.”

We feel a similar responsibility every time a client asks us to cater their corporate event or private party, or a couple hires us to handle their wedding. We are acutely aware that they are placing one of the most important days of their life in our hands, and we do everything we can to honor that trust.

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In the entryway of our Pleasant Grove offices, next to the Best of State medals and trophies, hangs a reminder of why we do what we do at Culinary Crafts.

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Whether we find ourselves getting grass stains out of a dress, retouching a guest’s hair, accommodating a guest’s dietary needs, preparing food boxes for the hungry couple to take home, or literally diving into the deep end of a pool to retrieve something a bridesmaid dropped, we try to be ready for anything because taking care of people is our mission. It’s what we love. Being a full-service caterer means doing what it takes to make sure our clients succeed and their visions come true. More than the awards, what makes us proud is the service we give.

Because to us, even if you’re not family, you’re family.

20x winner Utah’s Best of State

16x Best of State Caterer

3x Best of the Best / Hospitality

1x Entrepreneur of the Year