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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.

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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.

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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

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Signs of Spring

Yesterday was BEAUTIFUL!  The sun was shining, the temperatures were warm, the trees and flowers blooming.  It was a perfect spring day. 

A change of seasons means a change of menu for us chefs.  The colors and variety bring new inspiration and life to the plate.  Today, I was inspired and it was too good to keep to myself. 

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Fennel, Watermelon Radish Salad

Fennel and Watermelon Radish Salad
1 small fennel, halved and cored
3 small watermelon radish, or other radish, cleaned and peeled
2 ribs celery + inner leaves, washed
3 blood orange, supremed, scraps saved
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
Evoo

Using a mandoline, or a steady hand and super sharp knife, slice fennel into a large glass bowl.  Slices should be thin but not transparent.  Slice radishes and celery ribs into bowl, too.  Add blood orange segments, chopped parlsey and chopped celery leaves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze the juice from the orange scraps.  Drizzle salad with about 1-2 tablespoons of evoo and toss gently to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
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.  Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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Free Lunch

It’s Friday.  It’s lunchtime.  And there is NOTHING in the fridge.  Or is there?  Looks like it’s going to be a stone soup…er rice… kind of lunch.  A little of this and a little of that and we’ve got a pretty satisfying, cheap meal. 

The art to the stone soup theory of putting together a meal is to keep it simple.  Too many ingredients and it can become a hot mess.  Here are a few guidelines to making a complete meal using leftovers.

Pick a grain.  Leftover cooked rice, barley, quinoa, farro…it all works.  And it doesn’t take a lot.  About 1/4 cup is all you need. 

Next, you need some veggies.  I stick to a rule of three.  I chose shredded carrot, some red bell pepper and red onion.  Mushrooms, greens like spinach and kale, zucchini, tomatoes, beets, even the leftover frozen veggies stuck in the back of the freezer will work.  Use what you have.  And again, it doesn’t take a lot.  About 1/4-1/2 cup total is all you need. 

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Next, you will need a protein.  I had a frozen fish fillet.  Shrimp, leftover burgers, chicken, even the last few pieces of deli meat would work too.  Got a can of tuna?  Drain it and throw it in! 

Last, you want to season it up.  Salt and pepper of course.  But I also had some parlsey, and a half a lemon.  No lemon, no problem.  Make a quick and simple vinaigrette using 1 part apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar and 2 parts evoo. 

It took less than 5 minutes to throw together (including cooking the fish filet) and was totally delicious!  And it was FREE!  Everything I used I already had. 

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Leftover brown rice and veggies with white fish fillet

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.  Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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Pork Loin with Cilantro Date Relish and Sweet Potatoes

As professional chefs, we get inspiration from everywhere.  Especially the turn of a new season.  Spring is in the air.  And while this recipe isn’t particularly spring-y, (we do still have to wait for the spring produce to come up), it was inspired by the warmer temperatures and abundant sunshine.

Roasted Pork Loin with Date and Cilantro Relish and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4

1 lb pork tenderloin or thick boneless pork chops

1/2 cup dates, pitted

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons orange juice or pineapple juice

1 jalapeno

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks

kosher salt, cracked black pepper, extra virgin olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and add sweet potatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tender.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare a skillet with a small amount of olive oil.  Heat on medium-high heat until oil is hot.  Season the pork with salt and pepper, carefully add to the pan.  Sear on all sides until golden brown.  Place skillet in oven to finish cooking through, or if not using an oven safe skillet, remove pork and place in an oven safe pan.  This should take about 10-15 minutes for medium well pork.

3.  While the pork is cooking, prepare the relish.  Halve dates and then slice into thin strips.  Place in a medium bowl.  Chop the cilantro fine and add to the bowl with the dates.  Remove the ends from the jalapeno and discard.  Halve lengthwise and remove the seeds and ribs, or leave in tact for a spicier relish.  Slice the pepper into thin strips and add to the bowl.  Add the juice and about 1 tablespoon of evoo.  Season with salt and pepper.

4.  Remove the sweet potatoes and pork from the oven.  Allow the pork to rest for about 5 minutes, then slice against the grain into thin strips.  Top with the relish and enjoy.

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Pork Loin with cilantro date relish

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. Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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Citrus Season

It’s no wonder cold and flu season coincides with citrus season. All of those vitamins and antioxidants are great for boosting immunity.  But the season is almost over.  So take advantage of all that zesty goodness and get creative.  Citrus flavors pair well with lots of foods you already eat.  Just add some segments, juice or zest and soak in the healthy.

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There are endless ways to add citrus to your meals.  But one of my favorites, and perhaps the easiest, is to spruce up an ordinary chicken and greens salad with a variety of orange segments.  I like sweet pink Cara Cara oranges and deep red Blood oranges.  Add in some cilantro, jalapeno slices (seeded if you like it mild) and shaved red onion and you have one tasty meal.

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Make a simple vinaigrette by squeezing the juice from the leftover pieces from segmenting the oranges, and add in some minced garlic, olive oil and salt.  It makes a simple lunch or a light and easy dinner the whole family is sure to love.

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Other tasty ways to sneak in some citrus: zest lemon into your risotto or pasta.  Add some kumquat slices to fish and julienned vegetables.  Make a simple sauce for chicken or pork with the juice from 2 lemons and 1 cup chicken broth.  Or mix the zest from one lemon or orange with finely chopped almonds, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and minced garlic and use as a topping for baked fish.

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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.  Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

Rebecca Nedrow is an ACF Certified Culinarian with a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from Kansas State University.  She is also the Director of Operations for Friend that Cooks Personal Chefs.

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Fried Rice Is The Best

Need to get dinner on the table fast? Like 5 minutes fast?  Don’t make a run through the drive-thru.  Make fried rice instead.  It’s tasty, fast, and cheap! 

Step One:  Pull out all of those leftover veggie remnants from the frige, or the freezer. 
Step two:  Rice….it’s important.  If you have leftover rice, this dish will be fast.  If you dont have rice, but maybe have some leftover noodles, use that instead and make lo mein.  No rice or noodles?  Skip the starch all together or make some fresh. 
Step three: Get that pan on the heat.  Add some butter, olive oil, coconut oil…whatever you have and want to use. 
Step four:  Crack some eggs and whip them up.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic. 

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Leftover veggies in the pan

Step five:  Get those veggies on the heat!  If your veggies are raw, they will take an extra minute or two to saute.  If you have some cooked leftover veggies, save those for the end.  You don’t want them to get soggy. 

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Saute raw veggies for a minute or two

Step six:  Put the cooked veggies in a bowl and now add your eggs.  Scramble the eggs until they are cooked through.  This will only take about 2 minutes. 
Step seven:  Remove the eggs and add to the bowl with the veggies.  Put the rice/noodles in the pan.  Warm through and now add your sauce.  If you have stir fry sauce, use that. If not, add a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and some garlic powder to the rice.  Stir it all up.  Add the veggies and the eggs and stir together well. 

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Finished product

Now you have a delicious, healthful and cheap meal ready in about 5 minutes. 

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. Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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Gluten free crab and tilapia cakes recipe ¦ Friend That Cooks Blog

Gluten free crab and tilapia cake recipe

Here is a fantastic, and easy, recipe for gluten free crab and tilapia cakes. The tilapia in the recipe helps bind the crab cakes in the absence of bread crumbs. Use crab sold in plastic tubs in the seafood department for the best results. Canned crab found near the canned tuna yields less crab after the water is drained out and doesn’t hold together as well in the cake. Tools needed Standard size muffin tin, sheet pan, small sauce pan, large mixing bowl, spatula or spoon for mixing Ingredients

  • 2 (8 oz) tubs of crab claw or lump crab meat
  • 3 tilapia filets
  • 1/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion, separated into white and green parts
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp Boulevard Pale Ale mustard (or another type if unavailable)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • coconut, soy or some other type gluten free flour, enough to coat the cups in the muffin tin
  • oil spray
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper

Procedure Spray the sheet pan with oil spray, place the tilapia fillets on the pan and season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until needed. Cook peppers and onion whites in butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat until soft. Combine cooked peppers and onion, onion greens, garlic, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, Old Bay and fresh dill in a large mixing bowls and mix together. Crumble cooked tilapia into the mixture and stir until evenly distributed. Fold in crab without overmixing. Spray six openings in a standard sized muffin tin with oil spray, then coat with flour, shaking out the excess. Press crab mixture tightly into the muffin slots and pile the remaining crab evenly on top of each slot without allowing it to pile over the edges of each opening. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 170 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool for up to five minutes before removing from tin. To remove, run the edge of a butter knife around the outside edge of each muffin slot to loosen the cakes, then use the knife and fingers to pull out. Notes Allowing the cakes to cool completely before removing aides in keeping them in one piece. Cooking longer will also help them stay together, but runs the risk of drying them out. Vary the amount of mayonnaise, cooking time, flours and cooling times to find the perfect recipe for your oven and equipment. A great non-stick muffin tin is the best tool for ensuring a crab cake that doesn’t break. These can also be baked in paper cups as a last resort. Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service offers weekly meal prep in Kansas City and Wichita for families with busy schedules, food allergies and dietary restrictions. Our personal chefs can prepare healthy meals for your family every week to make your life much easier. www.friendthatcooks.com