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Happy New Year

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Holiday season. In typical fashion, I ate too much, drank too much, and had a heck of a good time. As the New Year creeps in, there are always excited and well-meaning declarations of improved health, living a simpler life, etc. I don’t know about you, but my resolutions always fizzle out around February 1st. So this year, I’ve decided not to make resolutions. I’ve decided to make a plan for health and wellness.

Many people think going to the gym and being on super restrictive diets are the answer for weight loss and health. It is only a small part of the bigger picture. The exercise will keep your heart healthy and increase stamina and strength. The restrictive diets work because you starve yourself. Your body is forced to lose weight because you are burning more calories than you are taking in. That isn’t very healthy and it is extremely difficult to maintain long term.

Here are some healthy tips to begin the New Year and maintain your goals for health and wellness.

1. Portioning is the key. You shouldn’t feel deprived of anything, that’s why diets don’t work. I like to begin with 5-6 ounces of protein (more if I am working out heavily). Protein not only fuels your body, it helps keep you fuller longer. Obviously, the leaner the better, but we are taking baby steps. Ribeye’s will always be my favorite.
2. I find grains are the hardest for me to control unless I portion. I could eat an entire loaf of bread and be completely content with my life. This is bad. Again, 6-7 ounces of whole grains daily will give you the satisfaction of the carbs we all crave without overdoing it. Whole grains contain dietary fiber, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid among many other vitamins we need to keep our bodies nourished.
3. Vegetables are my favorite…really, they are. The variety changes seasonally and there are so many wonderful things that can be done to vegetables to make them more amazing than they already are! Balance is the key to success, so 2.5-3.5 cups of vegetables a day is recommended. Asparagus with lemon, garlic and a little olive oil is a great way to get a serving of vegetables and it tastes great. I also really like charred root vegetables (in season now). The char means the sugars in the vegetables have caramelized and concentrated for a deeper sweeter flavor with a touch of smoke.
4. Dairy is another weakness of mine, let’s face it, I just like food. I don’t know if I could live without cheese, I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like. Thankfully, 3 cups of dairy is the suggested serving amount. It should also be as low fat as possible. If you aren’t going the low fat route, just eat less. I’m doing a happy dance because this means I can put a little cheese in my eggs and eat a little yogurt and honey with breakfast.

Winning! Dairy is packed with calcium resulting in better bone health.
5. Fruit is like a healthy sweet treat. Many fruits are high in dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and a variety of vitamin B’s. Our daily allowance is 1.5-2 cups of fruit a day. I like eating fruit with breakfast or throughout the day as a snack between meals.

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. We have to change our thinking from, diets are super restrictive to diet is a way of life and should be balanced. If you are craving a piece of cake, have a small piece. If you are craving potato chips, eat a few. We just have to reprogram our thinking to use moderation and encourage a balanced diet.

Cheers to an amazing journey in the New Year!

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Cooking with Children

Cooking with children can be a really fun experience for everyone. It is a fantastic opportunity to bond, learn, and empower children with the experience of cooking. Organization is the key to any successful cooking experience. This initial step is especially important when working with an enthusiastic capable young person.

 

When I cook with children, I begin the experience with a simple conversation, “what do you like to eat and what do you like/want to make?” These questions establish a great platform to begin the process. First, it allows me to gauge their pallet. Some children are more adventurous eaters than others. Second, it allows the child to be engaged from start to finish. Creating a sense of ownership fosters enthusiasm, respect for the ingredients, and creates a fun space to learn and work together.

 

After we’ve established what we are making, we mise en place. This French term literally means “everything in its place.” We gather our ingredients, pots and pans, cutting board, knives, and any other equipment needed to begin cooking. I usually create lists of what we need and split it between us. This is another great beginning creating ownership in the dish being created.

 

Once we have our ingredients and equipment, we read the recipe again, together. This is something key in all aspects of cooking. Reading a recipe before you begin cooking gives you an understanding of the process and it familiarizes you so mistakes are less likely to occur. Reading together also creates a perfect time for questions. If there is a measurement or abbreviation of an ingredient your sous chef doesn’t understand, this is the time to explain it. We are setting ourselves up for success.

 

Now the cooking can begin! I have a couple rules for myself when working with a young sous chef. First, I delegate appropriate tasks. A twelve year old has the ability to do different things than a seven year old. Find age appropriate engaging things to do. For example, I’d teach the twelve year old how to cut an onion with a proper chef’s knife while allowing the seven year old to measure ingredients, mix and stir things on the stove (with a stool and a watchful eye). I remember being able to beat the eggs for breakfast at four or five years old and being able to move them around in a hot pan with a spatula at age six. Every child’s ability will be different.

 

I also let my young sous chef know they have to wait for me to do anything hot. This is a rule for safety. Again, age will make a huge difference.

 

One of my favorite recipes to do together is Bowtie Pasta with Bacon and Peas. It I easy and delicious.

8 ounces uncooked (bow tie pasta)

3 bacon slices

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

1 cup frozen green peas

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

3 ounces cream cheese

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  3. Place bacon on a cookie sheet with sides and bake in the oven until cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and chop.
  4. In a large sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease over medium heat.
  5. Once the bacon fat is hot, add the onions and carrots and cook until the onions are soft stirring consistently.
  6. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  7. Add the peas and cook until hot through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved cooking liquid.
  9. Add the chopped bacon, thyme, salt, pepper and cream cheese to pan.
  10. Once cream cheese is almost melted, add the pasta and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Enjoy the experience and the wonderful meal you’ve created together.

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Holiday Treats

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The leaves are multicolored and vibrant, the air is crisp and cool and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. It is also the perfect time to get ahead on some holiday baking.

There is nothing better than a cookie with crunchy buttery edges and a soft chewy center. I know, you are thinking, “Why would I bake now, won’t the cookies get stale before the holidays?” Yes, if you bake them today, they will be stale in 3 days. The soft center you worked so hard for will be for naught. Well, I have a pro tip I’ve been using for years…FREEZE YOUR DOUGH. Wait, what? Freeze the dough? Yes!

Your best friend for cookies is a portion scoop like this:

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The portion scoop allows you to scoop the cookie dough and freeze individual cookies. You can bake as many or as few cookies as you need and they will ALWAYS be soft and delicious.

Here is a recipe for my favorite sugar cookie. This cookie is great because anything can be added to it. I’ve made them with butterscotch chips and pistachios. I’ve iced them with nutella. The list is unending for this cookie because it is an excellent base for any addition you’d like.

The Best Sugar Cookies

4 2/3 cups All Purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soad

1 teaspoon salt

2 3/4 cups sugar

4 ounces cream cheese, room temp

6 ounces butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 table spoon vanilla

Method

Preheat oven to 350. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Combine the sugar, cream cheese, and butter in a mixer and beat until incorporated. If you over cream the mixture, there will be too much air in the cookies and they will become really flat. Once the mixture is well incorporated, add the eggs, milk and vanilla. Mix until the dough is uniform in texture. Portion the cookies with your handy dandy portion scoop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently flatten the cookies so they aren’t dome shaped. Bake until the edges are golden and crispy, approximately 20 minutes.

*the yellow (#20) portion scoop is approximately 1 5/8 ounces. The cookies will be the size of a normal meatball. If you use something smaller, please adjust the cooking time down so the cookies don’t burn.

*if you aren’t going to bake the cookies immediately, please refrigerate the portioned scoops of dough for 10 minutes or until they have firmed back up then place in a plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 months.

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Happy Baking! The recipe makes about 30 cookies.

 

 

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Time for a Tailgate Party

Fall is one of the best times of the year for sports. There is a little slice of the season where Football, Baseball and Basketball are in full effect. It is also the perfect time to try new snacks for your next tailgate party.

When I tailgate, I want to have a great time, but I also want to eat great food. The grill is an easy way to create delicious food. One of my favorite things to grill is the chicken wing. They are easy to cook and easy to eat. Spice up your next tailgate with these show stoppers.

Thai Grilled Chicken Wings

2 pounds chicken wings, remove tips, separate drumetts and flats

1/2 cup oyster sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and allow to marinate for 30 minutes. If the chicken marinates any longer, the wings will be too salty. Grill marinated wings for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Enjoy with sriracha or hoisin for dipping.

 

Cambodian Inspired Grilled Wings

3 pounds chicken wings, remove tips, separate drumetts and flats

6 lemongrass stalks, remove outer layer, slice tender inner layer

3 tablespoons lime zest

6 garlic cloves

2 shallots, chopped

1 inch ginger, peeled, chopped

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 cup honey

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 tablespoons fish sauce

6 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika

wooden skewers, soaked

 

Combine lemongrass, garlic, lime zest, shallots, ginger, and turmeric in a food processor. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce, honey, paprika, and wings to a bowl to marinate for at least three hours, covered and refrigerated.

Once the chicken is marinated, grill for about 8 minutes or until cooked through.

 

Happy Tailgating!

 

 

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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

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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.

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

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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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Parsnip: The New Potato

Potatoes are a gift from the food gods! When baked, the skin gets crispy like a chip and the inside is fluffy and delicious. Fried potatoes in chip form or french fries can’t be beat. The crunchy salty goodness is hard to resist and goes with everything. Having a sandwich, eat some chips or fries. Enjoying a steak, have some potatoes…any preparation is perfect.

The down side to potatoes is they are extremely high in carbohydrates and in most preparations, high in fat. Alone, potatoes are high in potassium, vitamin C, B6 and are naturally fat free only having approximately 165 calories per serving. Have you ever eaten a fat free potato? I can honestly say I have NOT. I like my potatoes fried or with butter, cheese, and cream. The fat free notion goes out the window along with the added health benefits. The way I’ve begun to combat the starchy, fat laden potato dishes is to remove the potato and substitute the 100 calorie parsnip.

Parsnips are pretty cool, they are fragrant, sweet and easy to prepare. The first time I saw a parsnip I flashed back to childhood and saw the vampire bunny we read about, Bunnicula.

They look like white carrots (maybe the parsnip and the carrot are cousins). They are incredibly versatile and a fantastic substitution for their starchy white counterpart.

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Parsnips are high in dietary fiber and anti-oxidants. The bright white root vegetable also has  anti-inflammatory properties as well as being a good source for vitamin C, folic acid, B6, thiamin, vitamins K and E. So far, we are ahead of the game! This nutrient dense vegetable works with almost anything.

My two favorite ways to enjoy Parsnips are in a puree, like mashed potatoes and roasted with other fall vegetables like carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes.

Parsnip puree became popular with me because it is low carb and has the closest texture to a perfectly mashed potato.

Mashed potatoes require far more technique than parsnips, they are far less forgiving. There is a super fine line between a perfectly creamy mashed potato and a gummy one. With the white root vegetable, you have a lot more leniency. Here is a recipe I use when I’m craving mashed potatoes and don’t want to over do it with the carbohydrates.

Parsnip Puree

1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, smashed

1 c half and half

2 T butter

salt to taste

Bring parsnips, garlic, cream, milk, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat then cover and simmer until the parsnips are very soft, 10–15 minutes. Uncover and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes; season with salt. Puree in a blender until smooth. The stick blenders are fantastic for this application as well.

Parsnip puree takes less than half the time of mashed potatoes and has a deeper nutritional bench. Anything that would normally get potatoes, now receives parsnips.

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Char Roasted Root Vegetables

4 parsnips, peeled

4 carrots, peeled

1 sweet potato, peeled

1 golden beet, peeled

6 brussel sprouts, halved

3 T olive oil

salt to taste

any combination of dried herbs you have in your pantry

Pre-heat Oven to 425. Once all vegetables are peeled, cut them into approximately the same sizes, your choice. Place all vegetables in a bowl and add the oil, salt, and herbs. Toss them together and spread on 2 sheet pans. 1 sheet pan will allow the vegetables to steam rather than char and roast. Place in oven for 25 minutes. Once the vegetables are charred, turn the heat down to 400 and continue to roast until tender. Enjoy with any meal.

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Happy Fall!

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Who’s Ready For a Remodel?!

Kitchen remodels can be pretty daunting. I like to think of them as fun adventures. With the help of our amazing chefs, we’ve come up with some tips to make the process less stressful and the final result workable and beautiful.

 

The Triangle of Success

All kitchens need a functional work triangle or triangle of success, as I like to say. The work triangle consists of the sink, stove/oven, and refrigerator being in proximity to one another for efficient movement back and forth. The idea of the triangle of success is to keep the rhythm in the kitchen while preparing meals. Things should flow like honey, smooth and easy. Here are some examples of the triangle of success for a few different kitchen lay outs.

kitchen-work-triangle   kitchen-design-triangle-classic-with-photo-of-kitchen-design-decor-fresh-in-ideas

 

Flooring and Cabinetry

After you’ve established your triangle of success, the rest of the remodel is fun! This is the place where all the design ideas you’ve had come into play. Here, we’ll work from the floor up.

Materials like tile, stone, and hard wood make excellent flooring choices. The kitchen, in many homes, is the central point. It is the place where family and friends gather before sitting down to dinner. It’s the heart of the home. Hard surfaces like stone and tile are incredibly durable, easily cleaned, and can really make a statement.

Hard wood is warm and feels great on your feet; it’s inviting. Wood floors are also more forgiving than tile or stone. Have you ever dropped a plate on a tile or stone floor? Man, there is nothing like the sound of that shatter. You know the second it leaves your hand, its a goner. As your brain tells you to try to save the plate, your heart skips a beat and it is already mourning the loss of one of your beloved dish. Dropping a plate on hard wood can be less emotionally taxing. They usually hit the floor, *thud*, then spin like a toy top and land flat, ready to be picked up, brushed off and used again. Both surfaces are wonderfully easy to clean. The flooring choice comes to personal preference, but any of the three are fantastic.

Cabinets really set the tone for the kitchen. Are you looking for something light and bright, fun and whimsical, traditional, or darn and modern? The exterior of the cabinets can be whatever you want them to be, as long as they are easily cleaned. There is nothing like scrubbing marinara off bright white cabinets.

For the interior and storage, we’ve found that draws are fantastic for pots and pans. This allows the pans to be stacked and easily accessible. If drawers aren’t something you like, having a traditional cabinet with a pull out for the pots and pans is great as well. Here are some examples.

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Now the question is, “What do I do with those pesky cookie sheets, muffin tins, and random platters?” You’re in luck, we’ve got answers! Over the years you accrue more and more cookie sheets and muffin tins, none of which are the same size, making them difficult to stack and store. Well, having a space that is designated for those random pieces we all have is the first step. Usually it is close to the oven for accessibility. The second step is having racks installed. Like this.

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Problem solved!

There are a couple different routes to take when thinking about a pantry. First, go for the gusto and have a large walk-in pantry (everyone’s dream). Let’s face it, a walk-in pantry is amazing. Not only can it hold dried goods, it can act as extra storage for equipment not regularly used, seasonal kitchen decor, etc.

Not everyone has the space for a large walk in pantry, so the alternative is to make your space work for you. If you currently have a cabinet that is deep and floor length, add pull out shelves. The same principle applies with the pots and pans. With pull out shelves, you’ll be able to see everything you have…easily. The likelihood of having chicken broth from 2000 decreases tremendously!

gray-walk-in-pantry-floor-to-ceiling-built-in-shelves-gray-shelves  images-1

 

Counter Tops and Electrical Outlets

Counter tops are one of the first things people think of when remodeling kitchens, there are so many options. Our chefs work in many different homes and have a vast experience when it comes to workable counter surfaces. Here are some guidelines that will narrow down the search and give lasting satisfaction for durability.

  1. Under NO circumstances: MARBLE.
    1. it is beautiful
    2. it is unique
    3. it is expensive
    4. it stains easily (water can stain marble)
    5. it is porous
    6. it chips eaisly
  2. NO LAMINATE
    1. it is inexpensive
    2. it will melt if something hot is on it
    3. it scratches easily
    4. is isn’t easy to repair
  3. NO CORIAN
    1. it can be perfectly matched in solid pieces
    2. is will melt or scorch if something hot is on it
    3. it can be scratched easily
  4. YES GRANITE/SOAPSTONE/SLATE
    1. it is beautiful
    2. it is durable
    3. it is stain resistant once sealed
    4. the color doesn’t fade
    5. it is non-porous
    6. it won’t melt because it is a natural stone

The upfront cost of granite, soapstone, or slate will save you in the long run.

Electrical outlets are a necessity in any kitchen. We’ve found you can’t ever have enough! Here are some tips. First, if you have an island, place electrical outlets on both sides. This increases functionality. Second, allow for more electrical outlets than you think you need. The standard outlets are usually placed next to each side of the stove and both sides of the sink. Once the standard outlets are placed, add a few more. If you have long open counter space and no outlet, put one on the backslash. If you have a corner and there aren’t any outlets within cord length, you need to place an outlet on both sides of the corner.

 

Appliances

Shopping for kitchen appliances can be overwhelming and a lot of fun. Companies are always coming out with new technology and more efficient ways to work in the kitchen. Our most important note is to have double ovens, one of which should have convection capabilities. Your double ovens should also accommodate a cookie sheet not only side to side, but front to back. The remaining appliances are personal preference.

 

Sinks

Sinks are imperative in kitchens. When choosing a sink for your kitchen there are a few things we suggest. First, get a double sink that is deep enough to place a stock pot/pasta pot in without having to hinge the neck of the faucet. One of the basins must have a garbage disposal. The double sink is important because it helps keep the area as sanitary as possible. Imagine you are washing ready to eat fruit and vegetables and rinsing chicken in the same sink. Salmonella anyone?

Depth of the sink is also important because you don’t want water all over the floor. You want to be able to fill pots and pans easily. The shallow sinks allow water to splash out onto the floor and surrounding counter space. This screams extra clean up to me!

The surface material used in the sink should also be non porous and heat resistant. There is nothing like melting a sink with a hot pan. Here are some suggested materials, Stainless Steel is on the top of the list because it is easily cleaned and durable. Composite Granite is also another fantastic option for sink material. It is durable, scratch resistant, and easy to clean. It also comes in a variety of colors. Cast Iron with a durable Enamel Finish is next on the list. Cast Iron is one of the most durable materials and has been around for generations. The down side is it is incredibly porous, so it needs the enamel finish. The lighter colored enamel finishes will show scratches, but if you get one with a darker tint, you’ll have a great sink for years to come.

 

Venting Systems

There is nothing better than coming home to an amazing smelling kitchen. You sit down and have dinner, the smell is still there. It is time for bed and your are brushing your teeth, but you still smell the roasted chicken dinner you had a few hours ago. This is where the importance of a proper ventilation system comes into play. A hood vent, or ventilation system is a huge part of a kitchen. It allows the odor from cooking to ventilate and dissipate quickly. It really only works if you have a system that vents directly outside otherwise, it is circulating the smells.

 

These are the major things we’ve compiled that are really important when remodeling a kitchen. These are tools you’ll use to hopefully make your remodel a little easier and a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

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Jalapenos: A Fiery Education

As do many people across the country, we partake in Taco Tuesdays. Who doesn’t love tacos? It is the perfect combination of delicious and fun.

To stick with tradition, I made tacos for Taco Tuesday. I like to make fajita style tacos (roasted peppers and onions) with all of the usual suspects, pico de gallo, corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, salsa, chicken or beef and tortillas. As I was shopping for ingredients, I saw a beautiful red jalapeno. I’ve never cooked with or tasted a red jalapeno, so I bought it and a green one just in case I didn’t like the red.

I made the tacos and was super excited because there was a lot of pico de gallo. It is one of my favorite things to eat; pico goes with just about anything. Pico de gallo has a great combination of heat, fresh flavors, and textures. I took my first bite and it was great. The taco had nice heat and great flavor. As I kept eating, the intensity in heat from the jalapenos became almost too much to bear. I’ve never had this experience with jalapenos before. How is this taco defeating me? I am a taco master!

My lips were numb and my face was on fire. This is image was swimming through my head.

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As someone who is notorious for trying new things before doing my research, I learn the hard way, a lot. This experience was no different. Red Jalapenos are older and therefore HOTTER. Note taken. As I was reading, I also found that jalapenos with the “cracked” looking skin, red or green, are older and therefore HOTTER. It makes perfect sense, when green bell peppers ripen, they turn all sorts of colors, like red. I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together.

So when picking jalapenos, just remember, smooth shiny skin means young and less heat; “cracked” or red skin means en fuego, so be careful. Happy Dining!

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The Many Wonders of Grapes

We’ve grown accustomed to having certain fruits and vegetables all year round. Did you know that many varieties of grapes are actually harvested in the fall? The fall varietals are unlike your standard red or green grape; one of my favorites is the Moon Drop Grape. They are a dark rich purple color, almost black, and they are the perfect amount of sweet.

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Grapes are a fantastic accompaniment to many savory foods. A couple of my favorite grape recipes are Grape Salsa Fresca and Grape Salad. The Grape Salsa Fresca can be paired with any mild white fish or chicken. It could also be eaten by itself because it is so awesome! The Mood Drop Grapes are superb for both recipes.

The grape salad is a show stopper. It is incredibly satisfying as an accompaniment to any meal or as a main course. It is beautiful and delicious so it is also great for parties. Enjoy these fun recipes, they will keep things fresh and fun while the temperature begins to drop and the cool air creeps in.

Grape Salsa Fresca

3 cups grapes, your preference, halved

1 jalapeno, seeded, minced

2 T fresh cilantro, stemmed, chopped

1 lime, zest and juice

2 t honey

Zest lime into mixing bowl then squeeze the juice into the same bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together until well coated.

Grape Salad

1 1/2 packages Arugula

2 cups grapes, halved (reserve 6 for dressing)

1 shallot

1 cup marcona almonds

2 T *saba or balsamic vinegar

1 T sherry vinegar

1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c pecorino or parmesan, shaved

Any protein you’d like

Combine the 6 grapes, shallot, saba, and sherry vinegar in the blender. Blend until smooth
Keep blender running and slowly add olive oil until it emulsifies. Add a pinch of salt.
Place greens in a bowl, add grapes and almonds and toss with 1/4 c of dressing and a pinch of salt. Top with pecorino or parmesan

*Saba is reduced grape must. It is a sweeter substitution for balsamic vinegar and has a lighter flavor.

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New chefs in training

Weekly meal prep for 4

We’ve been getting some great dishes from new chefs going through training. There are four new personal chefs starting this month with Friend That Cooks and we love what we are seeing so far.

Poached cod and black rice
Poached cod and black rice
Veal meatballs and white bean ragout
Veal meatballs and white bean ragout
Sausage ricotta stuffed chicken
Sausage ricotta stuffed chicken thighs
Pan sauteed tilapia
Pan sauteed tilapia
Chick pea quinoa salad
Chick pea quinoa salad
Weekly meal prep for 4
Weekly meal prep for a family of four
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Tasting dishes from personal chef candidates

Friend That Cooks is busy interviewing and tasting dishes from new personal chef candidates in Chicago, Kansas City and Denver lately. We’re growing quickly and always on the lookout for talented cooks with a culinary degree and several years experience in a scratch kitchen. We will soon have openings in St. Louis, Omaha and Des Moines.

Here are some of the dishes we’ve tasted lately from talented cooks hoping to become personal chefs with Friend That Cooks.

Friend That Cooks Personal Chef Service offers in-home weekly meal prep for busy families, couples and people with special diets. We send a talented professional chef to the homes of our clients for a half day every week to plan a menu, shop, cook, clean up and stock their refrigerator with a week’s worth of healthy, delicious, prepared meals to reheat.

Service available in Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas City, St. Louis, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines and Wichita. Coming soon to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Indianapolis.

Tikka masala

Tikka Masala, curried cauliflower, potatoes and basmati rice

Vegetable ragout and polenta
Creamy polenta with vegetable ragout and a poached egg
Fried tofu and tumeric
Fried tofu and tumeric
Salmon with dill sauce
Salmon with dill sauce, potato pancakes, sauteed Swiss chard, pickled onion

If you or someone you know has a culinary degree and several years (post schooling) experience in a scratch kitchen cooking diverse ethnic cuisines, send them our way to see if they would be a good fit to become a Friend That Cooks personal chef. Our chefs enjoy weekday, daytime hours, earn higher than average pay, control their own schedules and get benefits. They get to cook their food and have the freedom to express their culinary vision. No other job in the world offers this type of culinary freedom.

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Meal prep made easy

Roasted potato salad meal prep image
Roasted potato salad meal prep

Weekly Meal Prep In Your Home

Roasted red potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, yellow cherry tomato and roasted red peppers tossed with minced garlic in a red pepper vinaigrette. If you want meal prep made easy, this is it.

Friend That Cooks makes feeding your family easy. Our in-home weekly meal prep service in #Denver #KC #Chicago #Wichita #DesMoines #Omaha #Milwaukee and #StLouis sends a talented personal chef to your home. We come every week for a half day to shop, cook, clean up and stock your refrigerator with a week’s worth of healthy, premade meals to reheat.

Our employees make it possible

Meal delivery services have one or two skilled chefs in the kitchen while low waged, under paid cooks actually do the work of preparing your meals. Our personal chef service hires only the most talented cooks. We have an arduous recruiting process that 99% of our applicants don’t make it through. We offer benefits others in the food service industry won’t. Our chefs get to work weekday schedules, earning automatic overtime if they occasionally choose to work a weekend.

It’s important to Friend That Cooks to offer our employees a quality of life they can’t find other places in the food service industry. We believe it allows us to get the best employees and offer a service no one else can.

Incredible value

The busy families and couples we serve will tell you. There is no easier way to put food on the table than Friend That Cooks weekly meal prep. And no better value in the food service industry. Our service averages half the cost of eating out for a family of four. We even save our families money on groceries. We cook the food they want instead of mass producing dishes for everyone from the same recipe.

Call us today to learn about in-home weekly meal prep. Visit our website and see example prices for each of the cities we offer service in. www.friendthatcooks.com/locations