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Chef Chris is a chef, mother and grandmother and cooks daily at the Craine House.  Chef Chris has been a chef for several years and is always looking for ways to make good food better.  At Craine House, she makes most of her meals from scratch.

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I am the executive chef and Culinary Education Instructor at Craine House, a work release residence for Women.  Because our population is women, pregnant women, infants and children, milk is essential in their diets. Fortunately, our staff has been blessed to work with Michelle Plummer and the Indiana Dairy Council for approximately six months. Michelle is our dietitian and helps oversee the menus that feed our women and children, assuring specific dietary needs are met.

I love being a chef! I am passionate about providing beautiful, nutritious foods that are healthy and filling but specifically, I love the whole idea of Craine House– helping to unite, reunite and keep together families that might not be together otherwise. I am a graduate of Ivy Tech Culinary Arts program, and a certified culinarian, a mother to both a wonderful son and an equally wonderful daughter and the Nana of three beautiful granddaughters.

I have been blessed with both the privilege and the challenge of nourishing little minds and bodies, developing babies, breast feeding mothers and teaching them healthier ways to cook, eat, shop. Recently, with the help of Aster Beleke and the Felege Hiywot Center, and the generous donation of time and product from the GFS on Michigan Road, we have begun to plant a small garden at our facility, adding another dimension of health and nutrition, and providing learning opportunities for both our children and residents.

There are many people, including God, who have influenced my life, but if I am going to tip my chef’s hat humbly, and say who had and continues to have the most influence on me, it would be the invincible, limitlessly talented, heart bigger than his body…and I man I consider my second father, Chef Sam Brown. His advice, love, guidance, assistance and influence have shaped my life in a way that I can NEVER repay and I will be eternally grateful, and humble having been blessed with his presence in his life. I aspire to be even half the chef he is, and even less of the person that he is.

Panna Cotta
Author: Chris Van Nevel
Serves: 6-8 Servings
Ingredients
  • • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • • 1 packet unflavored gelatin powder
  • • 3 cups heavy cream
  • • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • • 1 vanilla bean
  • • ¾ cup sugar
  • For the Balsamic Strawberries
  • • 4 pints (8 cups) sliced fresh strawberries
  • • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • • ½ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • • Freshly grated lemon zest, for garnish
Instructions
  1. [b]To Prepare the Panna Cotta:[/b] In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin powder on the water, and stir to combine. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to fully dissolve.
  2. In the meantime, in a medium bowl, whisk together half (1½ cups) of the heavy cream, the yogurt and the vanilla extract – mixing well to combine. Remove the seeds from the vanilla bean (cut the bean lengthwise with a sharp knife and then use the tip of the knife to scrape the seeds out of the bean); add vanilla seeds to the cream mixture.
  3. In a small pan, heat the other 1½ cups of heavy cream and the sugar over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and stir in the dissolved gelatin. Stir until completely dissolved. Add the hot cream-gelatin mixture to the cold cream mixture and mix well.
  4. Pour the mixture into ramekins or custard cups (or a single, wide flat bowl will also work if you do not have ramekins) and chill until cold. Once the panna cottas are completely chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least another 6 hours).
  5. [b]To prepare strawberries[/b]: Approximately half an hour before serving the panna cotta, in a bowl, combine the sliced strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper. Let the mixture sit at room temperature to allow the flavors to combine.
  6. To serve the panna cotta, run the tip of a sharp knife around the custard in the ramekin and dip the bottom in a shallow pan of hot water to loosen the custard from the bottom of the dish. Place a dessert plate tightly over the ramekin and carefully invert the dessert so that the custard comes out of the ramekin. (Shake the ramekin gently if necessary to get the panna cotta out.)
  7. Serve each panna cotta with the balsamic strawberries and a sprinkling of grated lemon zest on top.