When cooking at home, pretty much all of your favorite creations contain essential ingredients — you know, those items that make or break a recipe with either their addition or subtraction.
Chef Greg Prososki faces the same issue as he prepares menu items for 500 to 600 people daily, except his indispensable ingredients are more often than not a variety of essential oils.
That’s because Prososki is the corporate chef at Cafe TERRA, the in-house restaurant at doTERRA’s global headquarters in Pleasant Grove. When it came to our questions about including essential oils in everyday recipes at home, we figured who better to ask than the main man behind the ladle in doTerra’s own corporate kitchen?
“A lot of people ask me about recipes with oils,” Prososki said during a recent visit to Cafe TERRA. “I always ask, ‘What is your favorite recipe?’ Then you can add an appropriate oil (to that).”
Prososki, who has almost 30 years of chef experience, including three and a half in his current position, prepared several different recipes for sampling during our visit. These were both to show off some of the favorite items on the restaurant’s menu and to explain how to best incorporate essential oils into your own everyday recipes at home.
We started things off with a strawberry mango smoothie, which was extremely delicious.
“Some of the smoothies are healthy,” Prososki said, “and some are really decadent.”
We’re guessing that the strawberry mango smoothie — which uses real fruit but adds in some wild orange essential oil — is a little bit of both. As a family that thrives off of do-it-yourself smoothies at home, I recognize it would be extremely easy to take advantage of adding several drops of select essential oils. Some of the more popular additives would include peppermint, lime, lemon, ginger, grapefruit and wild orange.
Cafe TERRA serves breakfast and lunch five days a week — and as one might imagine, the smoothies, in all their varieties, are a favorite option.
“We go through 800 pounds of ice for a single day,” Prososki said.
Next up was a pair of salads, a Greek Salad with Lemon Dressing and a Waldorf Salad. The real star of this segment was the Lemon Dressing, which was developed by a former sous chef at the restaurant.
“Of all the things we make, this is the one I get asked about the most,” Prososki said. “It’s just wonderful stuff. ... You could drink it.”
Indeed — the lemon flavor was perfectly vibrant in both salads, but not overpoweringly so. When branching out with essential oils for your own recipes at home, there’s a bit of an experimentation process to find that balance point.
Prososki offered a few tips toward that end. First take note of the concentrated nature of the oils — and the overall strength of the oil flavor itself.
“There can be a few drawbacks because of concentrations,” he said, especially when it comes to oils like oregano and cilantro. A few extra drops of lemon, for example, likely would not alter a recipe drastically. Too much oregano, however, would be a much different quandary.
Prososki, for example, cited one example where an employee added too much oregano to a smaller sauce recipe. They ended up having to turn it into a 10-gallon batch to get the oregano balance correct.
When adding stronger oils to smaller recipes, Prososki advised dipping a toothpick in the oil bottle first and then swirling the pick around in the recipe mixture. That will help prevent the oil from overpowering everything else.
Next up in our tasting adventure was a dynamic red sauce that Prososki uses for three different menu items: pizza, a meatball hoagie, and spaghetti and meatballs. In addition to Escalon 6 in 1 crushed tomatoes (a specialty vine-ripened brand from California), garlic, sugar, salt and pepper, the recipe calls for four different essential oils: oregano, thyme, basil and rosemary.
The sauce is especially flavorful and robust, and would certainly pair well atop your favorite style of noodle.
“If you’re going to put it on bland noodles, you need it to be strong,” Prososki said. “You make it strong on purpose, that way you get (the flavor) you want.”
The No. 1 favorite menu item at Cafe Terra? That would be the Teriyaki Chicken. Another favorite is Thai Basil Chicken.
“This morning we cooked 40 pounds of chicken just for one day,” Prososki said.
This brings up another preparation tip. When it comes to adding essential oil to a recipe, later is better.
“If cooking, you want to add it absolutely last,” Prososki said. “So that it’s in (the mixture) the least amount of time, so it has the most flavor.”
We finished our visit samplings which what can only be described as some of the most mouth-watering granola I have ever enjoyed. By the time store-bought granola usually reaches our house, it is always hard and crunchy. But the Cafe TERRA blend was remarkable soft and chewy. It was unbelievably tasty both by itself and added into a cup of yogurt.
When asked about its soft and chewy texture, Prososki said, “”That’s very much on purpose. It has quite a bit of honey to accomplish that.”
In addition to oats, almonds, Craisins and a few other ingredients (see accompanying recipe), the granola makes use of cinnamon bark and wild orange essential oils.
“All of these are easily made at home,” Prososki said of all the menu items he’d prepared for our visit. “We do have folks who eat here every day. People are kind of captive here, so we change the menu once a quarter. (But) we have to keep our favorites.”
Those ready to begin experimenting at home with essential oils — and there are other companies that manufacture oils other than doTERRA, Young Living in Lehi being another prominent provider — can do so in several different ways. First, there are general recipes online. Second, you can check out doTERRA-specific recipes at https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/recipes.
Third, and perhaps easiest, you can take a look at some of your own favorite family recipes and find ways to add essential oils to the mix. My wife, for example, found a general recipe online that she liked and simply converted it for personal preference and for the inclusion of a trio of essential oils. (One drop of lime essential oil, for example, replaced the juice of one full lime.) The end result was fantastic, and we now have a new keeper in the family menu rotation.
If you want to get a personal taste test before going your own route, then you might consider stopping by Cafe TERRA. It may primarily serve employees of the company, but it is also open to the public. The restaurant has been such a popular addition to the company’s headquarters, that it was also scheduled to undergo an expansion facelift, slated to begin near the end of August.