Posted on

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.

Posted on

Lose Weight Walking – Health Ambition

walking up stairs for weight lossCan You Lose Weight by Walking?

As the end of summer approaches and school starts back up,  schedules start to fill up quickly again. Sometimes you start to lose sight of your daily tasks and goals, like keeping up with your fitness regime. Maybe you haven’t exercised in a while or just starting out. Some people might be nervous about getting started or need that extra push to start up again. Walking is a great first step for that (pun intended).

Our friend, Helen from Health Ambition, wrote an article about the benefits of walking and how to get started. Walking is a great low impact exercise with a high impact on reducing stress and improving overall health and weight loss. Did you know that walking 75 minutes a week can drastically improve general health conditions. Check out the article below for quick tips, tricks and motivation to start walking again!

Can You Lose Weight Walking 

For more tips and information from Health Ambition, check out there Facebook page here.

Posted on

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.

 

 

Posted on

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.
Posted on

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.

 

 

Posted on

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!

Posted on

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.

 

Posted on

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