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Upgrade Your Tailgate With A Fresh Menu

tailgate foodFor some, tailgating is more important than the game itself.  It’s the smell of burgers on a grill, the chill of an ice-cold beer, face paint and community gathered together to cheer on the… whatever your mascot of choice is.  Sometimes it’s an early morning game though, and a burger just doesn’t sound delicious.  Or maybe you are just looking to spice things up!  Whether it’s the booze or the food that keeps the parking lot party going for you, there are a few simple things you can do to make your next tailgate a real hit.

First, the menu.  It doesn’t always have to be burgers and hot dogs!  Mexican, Italian, even bacon and pancakes are all great ideas to change it up.  Think outside the bun and get creative with your menu.

Second, the equipment.  Whatever you are using to cook your tailgate foods now will work for other menus too.  You may just need to think about it a little differently.  We use water baths, or bain maries if you are fancy, to heat up foods that are awkward or have already been cooked.  All you need are two disposable aluminum pans like this.  One that is deep to hold the water, and another that is shallower to hold the food.  Fill the deeper pan with about 2 inches of water and use the fire from your grill to heat it up.  The steam from the hot water will heat the shallow pan on top and provide a non-direct heat source for your lasagna, quesadillas or scrambled eggs.  Best part, when you are done, everything can be recycled, or even reused!

If you are a purist, and want to cook all your food on-site, think about packing a griddle or skillet.  For foods that don’t grill well, like bacon, pancakes, pasta sauce… you get the idea, your flame from the grill will act like a gas stove and you can cook just like you do at home.  Don’t forget about a good-old-fashioned Crock Pot.  Cook your dish at home and pack it up.  You don’t even need electricity.  Those things will hold heat for hours!

Third, the CHEER!  Tailgating is supposed to be fun, not fussy.  So above all else, relax and have a good time.  If you are happy, your guests will be too!  Just don’t forget the ice.  No one like a warm beer at a tailgate.

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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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After School Snack Attack

healthy snacksAfter-school snack.  Let’s face it.  It’s basically the 4th most important meal of the day.  And between a full day of school, homework, sports, band, dance and chess club, it should be!  Kids are just smaller versions of adults, and if you want them to make it thru the day without a sugar crash or major meltdown, good nutrition in the middle of the day is a great place to start.

You don’t have time to make your own Greek-style yogurt and beef jerky, or maybe you do.  But a box of Cheez-Its does not a healthy snack make.  The trick to snacks is having options the kids actually like, and getting them to eat it.

Unfortunately, pretty much anything on the shelf at the grocery store with the word SNACK on it is full of sugar, fat and loaded with empty calories.

 

There are 4 things to keep in mind when considering a snack choice for kids.  After all, the whole point is to keep their brains and bodies moving for another 4-5 hours.  What should you look for?

 

  1. Calories. Depending on your child’s activity level, calories matter. But most kids don’t need a 550-calorie cheeseburger happy meal.  Keep it between 200-400 calories.  That’s plenty to get them thru until dinner.
  2. Nutrition. We gotta keep them moving, so the snack should provide a good balance between protein, fat and carbohydrate.
  3. Timing. Scrambled egg sandwiches are a great option to keep your kid fueled up for sports. But maybe not 10 minutes before swim practice.
  4. Easy. Good news! You don’t have to spend 40 hours each week sourcing organic hemp seeds and crushing your own almonds for almond butter.  That’s what you have Friend That Cooks for! 😉 And for those of you that don’t, we put together a list of 15 awesome choices that go together in a flash.
  • Celery, Dried Fruit, Peanut Butter: 2 stalks celery- halved, palmful of small dried fruits- think raisins, cranberries, or chopped banana pieces, 2 tablespoons peanut butter- or almond, sun-nut or other butter of your choice.
  • Peanut Butter and Pretzel Sticks: Again, whatever kind of nut or non-nut butter you want, just a couple of tablespoons, and about ¼ cup of pretzel sticks.
  • Clementines and Dark Chocolate: For a lighter, sweeter snack idea, pair the easy-to-peel citrus with 1 ounce of dark chocolate. This one makes a tasty dessert for adults too!
  • Zucchini Bread Muffins: Add some plain flavored protein powder, or a handful of chopped nuts on top, for an extra protein kick. Check out this recipe here.
  • Snack Mix: Avoid unwanted sugars and extra calories and make your own!  Trader Joe’s is a great place to stock up on nuts, dried fruits and seeds.  Portion out the mix into ¼ cup individual snack bags for even more portion control.
  • Granola Protein Bites: There are literally hundreds of recipes on the internet for something like this. But here is one that we’ve tried and our clients really enjoy.  The flavor combinations are endless, so feel free to play.
  • Fruit and Coconut Water Popsicles: This one is great while the weather is still warm. The electrolyte boost is also perfect for your sports players and dancers.
  • Peanut Butter and Banana Toast: It can’t get any simpler than this. Once slice of whole grain bread, 1 Tablespoon PB and a half a banana.
  • Hard Boiled Eggs: These are great to have on hand as “add-ons”. Pair with the zucchini bread muffins, or even some hummus and veggies for a protein punch.
  • Hummus and Veggies: Sabra makes handy individual cups for even less prep! Sub the hummus for guacamole for something different.
  • Tuna Salad and Veggies: 1 can tuna packed in water- drained, 1 celery stalk- chopped, 1 hardboiled egg- chopped, 1 Tablespoon plain Greek yogurt or mayo, 1 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Celery stalks, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes are all kid friendly and easy to prep ahead.
  • Cheese and Crackers or Fruit: 2 ounces of cubed cheese and 5 crackers is all it takes. If you can get away with it, pick a whole grain cracker option for maximum nutrients.  1 small apple or a handful of fresh berries to change it up.
  • Yogurt and Fruit: a small palmful of fruit goes really well with Greek yogurt.  The natural sugars in the fruit will flavor plain yogurt nicely, so don’t be afraid to give it a try.  A few chopped nuts go a long way too.
  • Tortilla Roll-ups: Think small, fajita sized tortillas, wrapped around some leftover meat from last night’s dinner, a smear of hummus, guac or spreadable cheese and voila!  Sliced bell peppers fit nicely inside that roll-up if you want to sneak in some veggies.
  • Nuts and Everything: 1 ounce, or about a palmful of roasted almonds or pistachios pair nicely with fruit, cheese or just about anything else.  The protein and fat content of the nuts keep the energy flowing until dinnertime.
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Chef’s Spotlight- Elizabeth Armstrong

 

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight features our new admin and office assistant, Elizabeth Armstrong.  Elizabeth was born and raised in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated from Olathe South High School in 2006 and went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Mass Media Advertising with a minor in fine arts from Washburn University in 2013.  Elizabeth spent a period of time designing websites and teaching drawing classes to elementary school kids.  She has also worked in the service industry for 14 years.

Elizabeth has a passion for all kinds of art and helping others. Staying creative is an ongoing outlet for her. She enjoys going to art exhibits, being out in nature, spending time with her niece, going to concerts and binge watching Netflix.

WELCOME ELIZABETH!  Not technically a chef, but definitely an important addition to our Friend That Cooks family, Elizabeth started with us in early May.  She works in our new headquarters office in Shawnee as our office assistant, website tamer and social media guru.  Check out her work on our Facebook and other social media platforms.

 

 

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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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Healthy Eating From Plant to Plate

Plant to Plate Meal Prep

Fresh Herb PlantFresh Herbs from PlantMeatball Marinara from fresh herb plant

From plant to plate! Our in-home #PersonalChefs will utilize your garden to help save money and add some extra flavor into your healthy weekly #mealprep dishes.

This meatball in marinara with pasta, broccoli and green beans is just one example of how our chefs can use fresh herbs and vegetables from your garden in the dishes. Using your own garden will not only save you money, but also insure that your getting the freshest ingredients.

As the summer goes on, you will start harvesting more herbs and veggies than you know what to do with. Let our chefs create dishes from your garden that you can freeze for later or eat right now. We can make tomato sauce, casseroles, bread, or soup to freeze for the winter. Or you could throw a huge veggie barbecue for your friends and we’ll do the cooking! Whatever you decide, let us help you get the most out of your green thumb.

Learn more about how we can utilize your garden ingredients and our meal prep services at our website!

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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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meal prep | bun thit nuong

Meal Prep Picture
www.friendthatcooks.com

Meal Prep Bun Thit Nuong

Bun Thit Nuong style bean noodle bowl meal prep with Chili-Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin and topped with fresh herbs.

Just one example of exotic In-home weekly #mealprep dishes made every day by Friend That Cooks #PersonalChefs.

See more at www.friendthatcooks.com #healthyMeals #Fitness 😋

#KansasCity #Minneapolis#StPaul #TwinCities #Chicago #StLouis #Omaha #DesMoines #Denver #Wichita #Milwaukee #Indianapolis

 

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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

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Braised chicken vindaloo, brown basmati

Turkey vindaloo meal prep image
Turkey vindaloo meal prep

Braised turkey vindaloo, brown basmati rice and sauteed kale.

Weekly #mealprep for busy moms, couples or special diets in #KC #Chicago #StLouis #Wichita #Omaha #DesMoines #Milwaukee and #Denver.
Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com