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Save Your Summer: A Guide To Sun-Drying

sun-dried tomatoesIt’s the end of the growing season for most of our summer herbs and vegetables, or at least close to it.  Maybe you were really lucky and able to eat everything you grew, or gave it away.  Or maybe you are like the other 99% of the population and you ended up with a bumper crop of all of your favorite things.  It happens to the best of us.  Our eyes are bigger than our proverbial garden stomachs and we buy too many plants.

But what happens to the extras?  After your neighbors and co-workers have had their fill, you’ve canned, pickled and preserved until your shelves are full but you can’t bear to see the precious hard-work go to waste.  There is still one easy, and very tasty way, to save the last bits of summer.  Sun-Drying!

I was thinking about this during the #SolarEclipse2017, when everything was all about the sun.  And it’s an excellent way to preserve fruits, veggies and herbs!  It also lends them to your favorite fall and winter recipes different than canning would.  So, what is good to sun-dry?  Almost everything!  But before you toss your produce on the back porch and call it good, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The whole point of sun-dying is to remove as much moisture as possible from the produce in order to preserve the flavor and nutrients for later use.  Bacteria and mold need moisture to survive and grow.  Remove it, and no more bacteria.  Some produce is going to take longer than others to achieve optimal dryness, so you have to pay attention.  Hot, all-day sun is best, and pay attention to humidity levels.  We want water leaving the produce, not going back in!

Equipment.  Tossing some tomatoes on a sheet pan and calling it good is only going to get you a big, moldy blob of tomato goo.  You need to make sure there is plenty of room for air to circulate around the entire vegetable or fruit to make sure it dries evenly.  Use a sheet pan, lined with parchment and a drying rack.  This will elevate the product to allow even air flow.  Also, unless you plan on standing over the product for a day or two, you might need to protect it from critters; bugs, squirrels, birds and the like.  You can easily make a cage of chicken wire or other wire grafting material and cover it with cheesecloth or some other kind of netting-like fabric.  Remember, sunlight is key, so make sure you can see thru it well.   You can also purchase something like this from Amazon.

Size.  In this case, it matters.  Just like when you cook food, it needs to be of uniform consistency and shape.  Also, the smaller the food, the faster it will dry.  For tomatoes, slice them in half or quarters and remove the seeds.  For zucchini, squash, peppers, etc, slice them into ¼ inch rounds or strips.  Slicing is a good idea for fruits too.  You also want to cut your produce to allow air inside the flesh.  The skin is there to keep air out.  So you need to break the skin to allow air in.  For berries that you would want to keep whole (because who wants to slice a million pounds of blueberries?!), blanch in boiling water for a few seconds to crack the skin.  This could work for cherry tomatoes too.

Oxidation.  You know when you’ve cut into an avocado and it starts to turn brown?  That’s called oxidation.  It’s when air mixes with the molecules of the flesh of the fruit and makes it turn an icky brown color.  It’s still delicious, just not delicious to look at.  It mostly happens to fruit and there are a couple of ways to prevent it.  Soaking the fruit in a mixture of lemon juice and water will usually do the trick.  Ascorbic acid and citric acid work well too.  You can buy them in powdered form to sprinkle on the flesh of the fruit.

Leafy greens and herbs.  Air drying herbs is my favorite way to preserve them.  I can only eat so much pesto by January before I wish I had some plain fresh basil.  Freezing in olive oil, or making an herb oil is good too, but limiting to how I can use it in a finished product.  Pick the leaves from the stems of the herbs and lay out on a parchment lined sheet pan.  You don’t need a drying rack in this case because of the flat, thin nature of the leaves.  Spinach, kale and chard are all great to air dry too.  You want the leaves to be as separated as much as possible.  And thicker, curly leaves like kale will take longer than the tiny leaves from herbs like thyme and oregano.  Dry whole, chop later.

If you don’t have a lot of direct sunlight, or maybe you don’t have the space to sun-dry, the oven works well for drying too.  Set it to the lowest temperature setting possible, and apply the same rules as above.  The oven will most likely take less time, as it is a more direct heat applied in a smaller space, but the results should be the same.

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Build Your Cookbook Library Like A Pro

We all have it.  That one book sitting on the counter.  Bent spine, dogeared, bookmarked and stained.  It’s the go-to.  The favorite.  Maybe it’s a collection of family heirlooms, a digital wallet stored on your iPad, a wedding present from your dear Aunt Sally, or a corner bookstore find.  A good cookbook can help plan that Thanksgiving feast for 20 or Tuesday night’s meatloaf supper.

For our chefs, they are a source of inspiration, and a education.  Just like a any other professional, chefs need to keep up with current trends, and brush up on techniques learned early in our careers.  It’s more than a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.

We get asked all the time, “What book should I have in my kitchen?”.  So we wanted to put together for you a  list of our chefs’ favorites.  Some are more reference books than recipe books.  But we still think they are great, even for the most novice of cooks.  Check out our list below and comment on your favorites.  Follow us on Instagram for the latest updates from Friend That Cooks!

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is great for everyday recipes.
Charcuterie, for meats: smoking, curing, salting and more. 
The Chefs Reference Guide is a great resource for the advanced home cook.
Instead of Google, grab a copy of Food Lover’s Companion. A great resource for anything food.
Composing the perfect dish is a breeze with Culinary Artistry. A great resource book for all home cooks.
Genuinely delicious and fun “fancy southern” cuisine from a Top Chef contestant, Fire In My Belly.
Learn everything pasta in Flour+Water: Pasta.
If bread is your thing, or maybe you want to learn, Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast is great to have in your kitchen.
The French Laundry Cookbook delivers beautiful pictures and exquisite technique.
TV show personality delivers classic and fun foods in Guy Fieri Family Food.
Sean Brock, a Charleston legend in his own right, shows you how to make classic, southern dishes that are beautiful and sustainable.
Momofuku is a must for anyone looking to step-up their Asian culinary game.
On Cooking, a texbook and staple for any cook. A must-own for all.
Staff Meals is fun and original cookbook with wholesome recipes, unique ingredients and a laid-back approach.
Bon Appetit’s The Grilling Book should be your can’t-live-without, summer grilling guide.
Get serious pastry skills with The Pastry Chef’s Companion recipe and resource guide.
Not just for vegans, Thug Kitchen’s NSFW first official cookbook has taken the food world by storm. Get serious about eating more vegetables and get a copy of this book…yesterday!

 

Ethnic Food Lover’s Companion makes cooking your favorite ethnic dish a breeze.
The Cook’s book is a great resource for tips and tricks from chef’s all over the world.

 

If you like breakfast foods, you need The Breakfast Book. Think farm-house simple.
When you aren’t sure what to pair with this, or how to spice that, The Flavor Bible is every cook’s go-to.
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Too Many Tomatoes I From Mama Natural

28 Things to Do With Too Many Tomatoes

tomatoesLate in the summer, many gardeners end up with too many tomatoes! Come late-August, you may end up with a dozen or two heirlooms ripening on your kitchen counter, with dozens more cherry, San Marzano, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Roma, Campari, Jubilee, Beefsteak and countless other tomato varieties ripening on the vines outside.

This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can be intimidating trying to think of ways to utilize them. Before we start, I have an idea of my own. First, cook down those fresh tomatoes and add some onion, celery and celery salt until the vegetables are tender. Now run that through a food mill and add some salt and lemon juice to taste. Don’t forget the last and most crucial ingredient…Vodka!

Now that you have a delicious bloody mary in your hands, you can click the link below to find out 28 ways to use all those extra tomatoes from your garden while they are at peak freshness!

28 Things to Do With Too Many Tomatoes

Leave a comment below with your favorite ideas and recipes using your garden vegetables and herbs.

Click here to learn more about Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service.

 

 

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From Food & Wine | Maple Roasted Ribs

Maple Roasted Ribs

Hey, here’s a great maple roasted ribs recipe we found at Food and Wine magazines website. Not all ribs have to be smoked, here’s another great way to make spare ribs. Our talented personal chefs know many fun and interesting recipes like this that we use every day for our weekly meal prep clients…

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/maple-roasted-pork-spareribs

Maple roasted ribs from Food and Wine magazine
Maple roasted pork spare ribs from Food and Wine magazine

Learn more about weekly meal prep from Friend That Cooks Personal Chefs on our website.

 

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Goat Cheese Quiche Recipe

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Quiche

Egg facesQuiche is our favorite!  It is versatile, can be eaten at any time of day, and is super easy to make.  This recipe comes from our very own Christina Hoffeld in Chicago.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 store bought or scratch made crust
  • 6 eggs
  • 6-8 ounces goat cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 onion, caramelized
  • 2T chopped fresh chives

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Place the pie shell into a deep-dish pie pan and crimp the edges with a fork.  Prick the bottom of the crust all over with the tines of a fork.  Cover the interior of the shell with parchment paper and add baking beads or dried beans to weigh the crust down. Bake for 15 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile, combine eggs, cheese, cream caramelized onion and chives in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  
  4. Remove the parchment paper and baking beads from the par baked crust.  Pour the quiche filling into the crust and bake for 40 minutes more, or until set in the center.
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Shakshuka Recipe

Shakshuka Recipe

EggsShakshuka is probably one of the best egg dishes known to man.  A Middle Eastern dish of tomatoes, peppers, spices and eggs, this dish can be enjoyed at any time of day and rivals even the best Mexican chilaquiles.  Feel free to experiment with your own spice blends to make it your own!  But whatever you do, be sure to have lots of bread ready to soak up all that tomato goodness!

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 diced spicy pepper such as jalapeno, serrano or thai chili, depending on preference (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • Pinch of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • (1) 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 eggs, whole
  • Chopped parsley, about 1 handful
  • Crusty bread for serving

Procedure

  1. Prepare a grill or broiler on high heat.  Rub the bell peppers with olive oil and grill or broil until well charred on the outside skin.  Place in a heatproof bowl covered with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove the charred skin, remove the seeds and stems and discard, and dice the peppers.  Set aside.  
  2. In a 12-inch frying pan with a lid, heat a small amount of olive oil on high heat.  Add the diced onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, but not browned.  
  3. Add the chili, if using, and continue to sauté until soft.  Add the spices and stir until fragrant.  
  4. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until a full, spicy aroma develops and the sauce thickens.  
  5. Carefully crack the eggs into the mixture and reduce the heat to low.  Cover the pan with the lid, and allow the eggs to steam in the mixture until cooked to your desired doneness- about 3 minutes for soft, 5 minutes for medium, or 7 minutes for hard cooked eggs.  
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread for dipping.
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Autumn Flavor Ideas | The Apple

The Apple

Autumn Flavor Ideas
Autumn Flavor Ideas
The first iconic flavor of Autumn, until pumpkin spice came to town. But we want to bring back the apple. Because it’s not just for pies, although it does make one heck of a dessert. With thousands of varieties to choose from, you are sure to find the right one. And if you don’t want to find a local orchard and pick your own, you can usually find about 10 different options at your local grocery market. They look great, taste great, and pack quite a nutritional punch with vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Weather you eat ‘em or drink ‘em, you know the old saying. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Looking for a new way to mix apples into the menu? Try some of these ideas!

  • Grated or julienned apples in a classic slaw
  • Diced with black beans, avocado, jalapenos and lime juice salad
  • Cored and sliced, roasted with pork tenderloin, onions and rosemary
  • Swap out the beer or red wine in your Sunday beef roast for Apple Cider or Applejack
  • Add diced apples the last 5-10 minutes when roasting Brussel’s Sprouts
  • Add grated apples to braised red cabbage or homemade sauerkraut
  • Instead of raisins, add small diced apple on peanut butter and celery boats for a tasty and fun snack
  • Thinly slice apples and fennel bulb for a vibrant and light salad
  • Add apples to your butternut squash soup recipe
  • Dice an apple and add it to your oatmeal for a hearty and warming breakfast
  • Add small diced apples, or applesauce, to pancakes and crepes
  • Add sliced apples to the bottom of a pumpkin pie. Best of both worlds!
  • Peruse the blog and find more recipes and fun ways to use great ingredients! Check out our website to learn more about weekly meal prep.

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The Art of Braising Meat

We get asked all of the time, “what’s your secret to cooking great tasting meat?”, so we decided to give you a little how-to guide to braising meat so you can rock dinner. This tutorial is about braising which is a low and slow kind of cooking method. For grilling, stay tuned, we will cover that in a different newsletter. This is also a general guideline and not a specific recipe. There are an infinite number of combinations of meat, aromatics and liquids out there. To list them all out be impossible. If you are thinking, “what kind?” or “how much?” of any ingredient mentioned, send us an email and we can give you some ideas. The pictures you see here are of a 4lb beef brisket. The fat cap (or fat layer) is on the underside to better show you how it was seasoned. Also, before searing, it was cut in half to better fit in the Dutch oven. More on that later.

Step One: Buy some meat

brisket-raw
Whether it’s beef, pork, lamb or other, it doesn’t really matter. The principles are the same. But, quality does. Make sure you are buying your meat from someone you trust. Avoiding previously frozen meat matters too. Without getting too science-nerd on ya, when you freeze anything, the water molecules within the cell walls freeze too. And what happens to water when it freezes? It expands and breaks down the cell walls, which in turn can make for a mushier texture. Great for bananas in banana bread. Not so great for a piece of meat. That’s not to say you can’t use frozen meat. Just make sure it was frozen properly, and take the time to thaw it out properly- in the fridge for a day or two.

Quality also means grade. Budget determines quality grade, mostly. If you have a few extra bucks to spend, get Prime. Choice is the best choice for the dollar…(see what I did there?!) You spend a little less, and still get great quality. Select is the lowest grade you can buy at the store. Unless you are pinching pennies, I don’t recommend getting it. It’s really not worth it. So just buy Choice.

brisket-small

Step Two: Prep the meat

You don’t want to go straight from the fridge to the stove. Ever. Again…science. Let your meat rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. “OMG! Won’t I get sick if I leave my meat out that long?” NO! You won’t. Unless you left it in your hot car for an hour after you got home, it’s probably going to be fine. Just be smart.

Remove any extra fat or silver skin that wasn’t removed by the butcher. I don’t mean remove all the fat. You need some to make the meat not suck. But too much and your meat will be greasy. You want a nice 1/8 inch layer. And there should be some marbling. That’s why you bought Choice, remember. (Fat carries flavor, so leaner cuts tend to have less flavor.) Pat the piece of meat dry with a paper towel or two. This removes any extra moisture from the surface of the meat.

SEASON YOUR MEAT BEFORE YOU COOK IT*!!!! This may be the most important step. Unless you have a medical condition that prohibits you from consuming salt, season your meat with salt. Most of us at FTC prefer Kosher salt, but you can use whatever you want. And pepper. Use pepper. Sprinkle all sides of the meat with a layer of salt and pepper. It’s not just for flavor. Also, science.

beer-braising

Step Three: Prepare the aromatics

This is the stuff that makes the meat taste really good. Things like herbs (remember that disclaimer about infinite number of possibilities), sliced onion, chopped garlic, shallots, carrots, celery, etc. You don’t need a lot of it. Half an onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs (dried or fresh) a carrot and a celery stalk will do just fine for a 4lb roast.

You also need a liquid and some acid. Tomato, red wine, beer, and cider all work well as an acid. You will need about ½-1 cup of acid. Broth, stock and juice are fine liquids. Basically, you need something that tastes better than water. About 2 cups should suffice.

Step Four: Prepare the heat source

The oven should already be on and preheating to between 275 and 325 degrees, depending on the meat. But first, we must sear the meat. That takes a high heat source. You will want to use a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot, something with an oven safe lid. We don’t want to wash a lot of dishes at the end of this, so try to use only one pan. But if you don’t have one, you can sear in a skillet and transfer to a roasting pan.

Get the pan hot. Not rip roaring, call the fire department hot. But hot. You are going to put a big hunk of meat in the pan that is going to suck up all the heat in a short amount of time. If when you put a small amount of oil in the pan, it begins to smoke, the pan is too hot. Remove from heat, wipe out the pan, and try again. The trick is to get the pan hot enough that when you put the meat in, it stays hot and continues to caramelize the outside of the meat, but doesn’t burn down your house. And this is one case where the size of the meat matters. You need a pan that is big enough to house the meat comfortably.

Step Five: Cook the meat

brisket-searing
Add a small amount of oil to the pan, just enough that when you swirl the pan around the oil covers the bottom of the pan. And quickly it should start to shimmer. That means it’s ready. Carefully add your meat and let it sit. You will be tempted to check it. Don’t. Every time you lift the meat surface from the pan, it stops cooking. So just trust us and leave it. This is called caramelization. It is a science word that means good tasting meat.

After a couple of minutes, you should start to see the meat turn a beautiful golden or dark brown around the edges. Now would be a good time to check.brisket-browned If it has turned said GBD (golden brown delicious) color, flip the meat and repeat on all sides, until you have a nice crust around the entire outside. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Turn down the heat a skosh, add the aromatics and stir them around a bit until they start to release their juices*. Then add the liquids and scrape up any cooked-on bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the meat to the pan (or to the roasting pan if using a separate pan for the oven with the aromatics and liquid), transfer to the oven (covered) and let the meat cook until it is tender. For a 4 lb beef chuck roast, that is about 3 hours.

Step Six: Serve the meat, and take a pic for Instagram

Because that’s what we all do now, right? braise-meat-small

*If you want to use the braising liquid as a sauce, you will want to thicken it. Either, dust the meat with a light coating of flour after seasoning with salt and pepper, or add a heaping tablespoon of flour just after adding the aromatics, and before adding the liquid. Either way, there will be enough flour molecules to thicken the sauce while it cooks.

**If you have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten or just don’t like it, don’t use flour. There are other products out there that can be used as a thickener, but most should be added at the end of the cooking process. Email us if you have a specific question.

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Breaking It Down: A Guide To Cutting and Cooking Large Winter Squash

Butternut and Spaghetti Squash
Butternut and Spaghetti Squash

It’s fall, and winter squash season.  Everywhere you look there is a tasty new recipe for butternut, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkin.  You Pin them on Pinterest.  You print them off.  You see them piled high on the shelf at the supermarket and……you keep walking.  YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO BREAK THEM DOWN, and it scares you.

Well, we are here to tell you, and show you, how easy it really is to cut up and clean up those big winter squashes so that you can prepare that healthy and tasty recipe.

You will need:

1 large cutting board, either plastic or wood (glass is not a cutting board- it is a serving platter), secured with a wet towel or paper towels to keep it from moving on the counter;

1 large chef’s knife, sharp;

1 squash;

1 kitchen spoon and bowl.

The hardest part about breaking down a large squash is keeping your fingers out of harm’s way while keeping the squash from moving on the counter.  If it works better for you, slice a small portion off the side of the squash, to make a flat spot.  This will keep it from rolling around on the board.

First, rinse off the squash under cool water.  Dry it off with a paper towel.

Slice the ends off of the squash to expose the meat.
Slice the ends off of the squash to expose the meat.

Second, slice off the ends of the squash.  This will expose the interior meat of the squash.  Using a sharp knife is key.  Don’t push straight down on the knife.  Let the blade of the knife do the hard work and rock the blade forward and back, like you are slicing.  If your squash is particularly big, use your other hand to secure the blade of the knife.  But be sure to put a kitchen towel between your hand and the blade in case you slip.  Stitches are NOT part of the recipe!

Turn the squash on end and slice in two.
Turn the squash on end and slice in two.

Third, turn the squash on end and cut in half.  If you are cutting a butternut, cut the squash where the bulb meets the neck.  It is easier to peel and deseed this way.

Fourth, for spaghetti, acorn and similar squash, remove the seeds using the edge of a kitchen spoon.  Discard the seeds.  For butternut, peel the thin skin using either a vegetable peeler or a knife.  Be careful not to remove too much of the meat with the skin.  Remove the seeds from the bulb as described and discard.

Remove the seeds from a spaghetti squash with a kitchen spoon.
Remove the seeds from a spaghetti squash with a kitchen spoon.
Peel the thin skin from a butternut squash using either a knife or a vegetable peeler. Remove the seeds from the bulb.
Peel the thin skin from a butternut squash using either a knife or a vegetable peeler. Remove the seeds from the bulb.

Next, for spaghetti and similar squashes, it is time to cook them.  There are several ways to do it, but the easiest and most basic is to steam them.  Lay them cut side down in a baking pan and add about 1/2 cup of water.  Cover with foil, bake at 375 until tender, about 30 minutes.  For butternut squash, dice the squash to desired size.  If you are using it in a soup, simply rough chop the squash into large pieces.  To roast and add to a salad or as a side dish, dice into smaller pieces.

Dice butternut squash to roast as a side or for a salad.
Dice butternut squash to roast as a side or for a salad.

So next time, don’t pass up that big pile of squash at the grocery store.  Be brave, and pick one out with few blemishes, and feels heavy for its size.  Then take it home and cut it up, because you know how now!  If you don’t use it right away, keep it in a cool dark place for up to several weeks.  But don’t wait too long, because you have a lot of delicious recipes to make!

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha , Des Moines and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets. Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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September News from Friend that Cooks

Just one week ago, I had one of the
most amazing experiences of my life.
I think I found what my heaven will look like! A few years ago, I heard about this field out near Lawrence, Kansas full of sunflowers. It took me a few years, but last week, I took my mom out for a visit. And it was breathtaking. As far as the eye can see… sunflowers! A million to be exact. I tried growing my own this year. They were from heirloom seeds, so the faces were smaller. But still a cool experiment.
As I watch the life cycle of the sunflowers in the field and how in just a week’s time the blooms have begun to fade, I am reminded of how short the seasons are. In just over a week, it will be officially Autumn. Where did the summer go?! I’m sure my mom-friends with school aged children do not agree, but I wish the summer could last just a little while longer. Of course, with all of the extra rain and mild temperatures we’ve had in the Midwest this year, I can say that. Maybe a few years ago I was begging for a day below 100 degrees by this time. But that was then and this is now… and I want it to stay summer forever!

So instead, I will cherish every last blueberry, the juice from a sun-warmed peach dripping down my chin and the tart bite of a perfectly ripened tomato just picked off the vine. I will load up on squash blossoms and stuff them with the best of the herbs from my garden, deliciously soft goat’s cheese and then fry them to golden perfection. And then eat them with a salad so I feel a little less guilty.

I will watch the sunset a few minutes earlier every evening and think fall will be here before we know it, and so will its produce. Don’t get me wrong, fall is great! It’s actually my favorite time of year. Butthis year, this summer… I’m not ready for it to end.

There is still plenty of late-summer produce at the farmer’s market, so stock up and savor it. Add some fresh corn to your salad. Toss cherry tomatoes in a hot skillet with a little olive oil or butter and sauté just until they burst, then top your steak. There are about 150 bazillion ways to eat zucchini, but how about shredding it and baking it in your oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it… it’s delicious!

Until next time.


Got Milk? It May Be Better To Not.
Some dietitians think that eliminating milk may lead to weight loss and other health benefits.

Check out this link to read more.

Cutting an onion can be tricky.
But you don’t have to cry about it.
Read about why it’s important to NOT refrigerate your onions, and how to slice them properly.

Use up the last of that beautiful basil and pick the last of the tomatoes.
Here is a tasty and easy recipe you can make for dinner tonight.

Basil Pesto Salmon Recipe


Some of you may be wondering who it is exactly that sends you this newsletter every month.

For those of you who don’t know, my name is Rebecca Nedrow and I am the Director of Operations for Friend that Cooks.

I didn’t start out in life loving food. I was just a regular girl in a regular Midwest town with regular working parents. We had dinner at the dinner table every night. And almost every night it was a meal made from scratch by my mother. Eating out was a luxury, and the extent of things that came out of a box or a can were macaroni and cheese or canned green beans. And those were usually saved for nights my older sister was babysitting. We ate what was on our plate. And if we didn’t, we saw it again later that week, because there was always a leftover night. My parents had a large garden when I was very young, but the only thing I actually remember was the strawberry patch. My mother would send me out to pick strawberries and I usually came back with more in my belly than in the bowl. I have since discovered that I am not blessed with a green thumb. I can’t grow a vegetable to save my life!

When I was older and tall enough to reach the stove top, I did begin to take an interest in baking. My mother’s chocolate chip cookie is one of my favorites to make to this day. But I will never forget the first time I was left on my own to make the recipe for a road trip we were taking, and I confused the teaspoon and tablespoon measures for actual teaspoons and cereal spoons. To say the least, they were awful! The cookies looked fine, but they were extremely salty. On the weekends, my younger brother and I would draw and color “breakfast in bed” menus for my parents. I would be in charge of the eggs. He would make the toast.

My real knack for cooking came in high school. There was one teacher at my school, Mrs. Salazar, that taught all of the cooking classes. I took one as a required credit and was hooked! I took every single class she offered, and had a blast! Science was my other favorite subject. So when it came time to pick a major for college, Dietetics was the logical choice. I went to Kansas State University and received my Bachelor’s in Dietetics.

My senior year, however, I decided I wanted to go to culinary school instead. I graduated, and then immediately enrolled in Johnson County Community College’s Culinary Art’s program. I got very lucky and was able to secure an apprenticeship at 40 Sardines with James Beard award winning Chefs Debbie Gold and Michael Smith. When I completed my degree at JCCC, I left for Charleston, South Carolina and worked at a restaurant called FIG with another James Beard award winning Chef Mike Lata. I have been very fortunate to work alongside some of the greatest chefs in the Kansas City and Charleston areas, and they have all influenced me and help to shape the kind chef I am today. When I left Charleston, I moved to Wichita, Kansas where I eventually found Friend that Cooks. After 2 years, I returned back to Kansas City to help owner Brandon O’Dell with the business, and we have been growing ever since.

My dietetics background not only influences the way I cook for myself and my clients, but it gives me the skills I need to be able to help our clients with special dietary needs and those that need help with specific diets. I take great joy in the fact that I am able to understand on a deeper level what our clients need and be able to work with them. The science of how and why food works in the body is a passion of mine, and I love explaining it to my clients and watch their eyes light up as they begin to understand too!

When I am not watching K-State football with my family at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, I am reading from my cookbook collection, hanging out in downtown Kansas City or following our professional local sports teams. I serve on two executive boards for my sorority’s alumnae group. I also have a dedicated yoga practice and enjoy helping my mom with her flower gardens every spring.


Connect With Us!

Friend That Cooks Personal Chefs
Kansas City: 913.660.0790 | www.kcmealprep.com | personalchefs@friendthatcooks.com
Wichita: 316.361.0823 | www.wichitamealprep.com | personalchefs@friendthatcooks.com
Chicago: 872.205.6068 | www.chicagomealprep.com | chicagochefs@friendthatcooks.com
St. Louis: 314.669.4593 | www.stlouismealprep.com | stlchefs@friendthatcooks.com
Omaha: 402.819.7916 | www.omahamealprep.com | omahachefs@friendthatcooks.com
Des Moines: 515.661.4592 | www.desmoinesmealprep.com | desmoineschefs@friendthatcooks.com
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Blueberry Vinaigrette

There are 4 important components to a good salad.  Texture. Color. Flavor.  Dressing. 

So what happens when you don’t have any dressing?  You make one.  6 ingredients, 2 minutes, and a blender is all it takes to make this tasty blueberry vinaigrette.  And it doubles as a sauce for pork and chicken! 

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Blueberry vinaigrette

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (or a combination of mixed berries)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1.  Add berries, vinegar, salt, sugar and water to the blender.  Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. 
2.  Slowly stream in olive oil and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds. 
3.  Transfer to a storage container and clean out your blender. 

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Blend until emulsified

The easiest way to clean a blender is to rinse it out, fill half way with hot water and a dab of dish soap, and run the blender for about 20-30 seconds or until clean.  Rinse with clean water and air dry.  Works every time!

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Cleaning the blender

Salad saved! 

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Spinach, roasted red beet, goat's cheese, red onion, bell pepper, blueberry vinaigrette

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha , Des Moines and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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Macadamia Coconut Halibut with Pineapple Pepper Quinoa

I just made this recipe up today.   And if I do say so myself, it was pretty great!

Part of what we do is use ingredients you already have in your fridge and pantry.  Today, my client had macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, quinoa and coconut milk.  The pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut were an obvious combination.  But the orange bell pepper really made it different.  It took the dish from being too sweet, to being just right!  And who doesn’t love Halibut?!  It’s in season, so we can usually find it for a good price.  And we want to use it while we can get it fresh.  It’s a mild, white flaky flatfish found in the cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean.  It goes well with anything, and can be prepared a zillion different ways.  Try it out this week for a different take on familiar favorites.

Don’t want to pay for Halibut?  Try using cod.  It’s just as flaky and mild.  Don’t know how to cut up a fresh pineapple? Use canned.  It’s ok, just make sure it’s packed in 100% pineapple juice instead of syrup.  Want to use different vegetables?  Go for it!  The bell pepper, zucchini and English peas spoke to me at the store.  But you can pretty much put just about anything in this and it will taste great!  To keep the recipe from blowing up in the pan, stick to just 3.  And go for a variety of colors for maximum nutrition.

For picky kiddos that don’t like veggies, cut them up extra small.  The quinoa and coconut milk will hide them and make them sweeter.  Kids don’t like their foods mixed?  Leave the veggies out and put them on their plate separately.

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Here’s the recipe. ENJOY!!

Macadamia Coconut Crusted Halibut, Pineapple Pepper Quinoa

Yields 2 servings

1/2 pound fresh English pea pods, shelled, or 1/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1/4 cup diced fresh pineapple, or more if desired

1/4 cup plain Macadamia nuts

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flake

10-12 oz fresh Halibut filet, skinned, cut into 2 (5-6 oz) portions

Kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, ice water bath for peas

1. Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Season well with salt.

3. Shell pea pods and rinse peas under cold running water. Blanch in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Remove from boiling water and cool in ice bath. Discard salted water.

4. To prepare quinoa, in the same saucepan used for the peas, combine quinoa, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and quinoa has sprouted. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the fish. In a food processor, combine the Macadamia nuts and coconut flakes. Pulse until it resemble course crumbles. Transfer to a small bowl and add about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil and combine to make a paste.

6. Transfer the fish to a prepared rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and cover with the coconut mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and fish is tender and flaky.

7. In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat. Saute bell pepper and zucchini until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to the quinoa and stir to mix. Fold in about 2/3 of the cilantro, blanched English peas and diced pineapple.

8. To plate, add half of the quinoa and vegetables to the center of each plate. Top with the fish, and finish with a sprinkle of the remaining chopped cilantro, if desired.

(The vegetables used in this recipe can be substituted for almost any combination of vegetables desired.)

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets. We send a talented chef to your home for a half day every week to shop, cook, clean up and stock your refrigerator with a week’s worth of healthy prepared meals to reheat. Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com