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Festive Holiday Recipes

We asked our talented chefs to share their favorite festive holiday recipes and they delivered! Here are a few that are sure to knock some socks off at your next holiday gathering.

MANGO-CURRY SHRIMP SALAD IN WONTON CUPS- Chef Mimi Mostofi, Chicago

Ingredients:

12 wonton wrappers (from one 12-ounce package), each cut into 4 squares
Vegetable oil

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
5 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons mango chutney
3/4 teaspoon Thai green curry paste*
12 ounces peeled cooked medium shrimp, coarsely chopped

Fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Place wonton squares on work surface; brush lightly with oil. Press each into miniature muffin cup, oiled side down. Bake until wonton cups are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool completely in tins. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Remove cups from tins and store airtight at room temperature.)

Whisk mayonnaise, chopped fresh cilantro, lime juice, chutney, and curry paste in medium bowl to blend. Stir in shrimp. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. (Salad can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Place wonton cups on serving platter. Spoon 1 teaspoon shrimp salad into each cup. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

*Thai green curry paste is available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets.

 

CRANBERRY BRIE BITES- Chef Elana Green, Chicago

Fresh Cranberry Sauce:

1 bag cranberries
1 navel orange, zest and juice
1 c. water
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/4 c. honey
Additional ingredients:
12-16 oz Double cream brie
1 box puff pastry sheets

Directions:

Combine ingredients for cranberry sauce in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, cut the Brie into pieces slightly smaller than a mini cupcake tin. Cut puff pastry in circles using a mason jar and place the circles into a mini cupcake tin.  Bake at 375 degrees for 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven, put the brie pieces inside the puff pastry and bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden. Top with one teaspoon of the cranberry sauce and serve.

 

CLASSIC EGG NOG- Chef Jacob Wright, Kansas City

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
5 whole cloves
2½ teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 egg yolks
1 ½ cups sugar
2 ½ cups light rum
4 cups half and half
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and cinnamon in a saucepan, and heat over lowest setting for 5 minutes. Slowly bring milk mixture to a boil.

In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together until fluffy. Whisk hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs. Pour mixture into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick. Do not allow mixture to boil. Strain to remove cloves and let cool for about an hour.

Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla, and nutmeg. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Sarah George

This month’s Chef’s Spotlight is from Des Moines, IA: Meet Chef Sarah George.

Meet Chef Sarah George

Halfway through her work on a Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, Sarah decided she wanted to go to culinary school.  After finishing her bachelor’s degree, she went to Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, MN.  She graduated in July 2013. Her externship at The Farmhouse, a farm to table restaurant in the River Market neighborhood of Kansas City, MO was so great she continued to work there for a year and a half after graduation. She then moved to a position at Bistro Kids, a company that focuses on scratch-made meals for schools. She worked primarily with the Kansas City YMCA Head Start program where she taught cooking lessons to kids.

In 2017, Sarah and her husband relocated back to Iowa.  During that move, she accepted a personal chef position for Friend that Cooks in Des Moines! “I love working closely with people and making their hectic day-to-day responsibilities easier to handle. I’m lucky to say that my “job” doesn’t feel like work.”  She enjoys making simple and flavorful dishes with not a lot of bells and whistles.  She attributes that mostly to her upbringing in rural northern Iowa.

When Sarah is not cooking, she loves to create and make crafts. Crocheting, knitting, sewing, woodworking, ceramics, and embroidery are just a few of her outlets. She also loves playing board games with her husband and friends, relaxing with her two cats on the couch and binge watch anything on Bravo TV.

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22 Gifts for Foodies

Our top 22 gift ideas your favorite foodies will actually like.

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How to Buy a Kitchen Knife

Knives-101: A Quick-ish Guide Before You Buy

Second only to our hands, good kitchen knives are the single most important tool a cook has in her toolbox.  With only a few different styles, she can do just about everything she needs to do this side of the cutting board.  Before you head out and spend a small fortune, or worse, get the cheapest set available, there are a few things you should know.

 

  1. Anatomy of a knife.

    There are over 10 different parts to a chef’s knife.  But there are 4 that are most important when shopping for the right knife for you: Point, Edge, Tang and Handle.

    basic anatomy of a kitchen knife
  • Point: The very tip of the cutting surface where the edge meets the spine.  It can be curved up, down and everything in between.  Some specialty knives may have a curved or bent point, like a cheese knife.  But for most basic chef’s knives, (that’s the big one that comes in a set), a gentle curve that follows the edge of the blade is best.
  • Edge: This is the cutting side of the knife.  It’s the part that does all the work, so this is an important part!  In the kitchen, there are three basic styles: hollow-grind, flat-grind and serrated.  A hollow-ground edge is a finer edge that is best for slicing and cutting.  It tends to be more delicate and may need to be sharpened more often.   Chef’s knives, boning, paring and utility knives tend to have this type of edge.  Flat-ground edges are best for knives that are going to do a lot of chopping thru harder objects, like bones- think meat cleavers.  Serrated knives have a single-sided scalloped edge.  This type of edge is great for slicing thru crumbly foods like breads and cakes, and sometimes tomatoes.  Sharpening a serrated edge can be tricky though.
  • Tang: The tang is the extension of metal that runs from the base of the blade thru the handle.  The farther back the tang runs thru the handle, the sturdier the knife and the more stable the blade will be.  Cheaper knives tend to have partial tangs.  This feature can be used to easily determine the quality, and often price, of a good kitchen knife.
  • Handle: The handle of a knife can be made out of just about anything, from rope to bone to wood to plastic.  It can be decorative, or purely functional.  Most are made from a polymer-type material and hold up well to extensive use.  Some have finger grooves for grip, others do not.  It is important to “try on” a knife before buying, hold in your hand and see how it feels.  Your chef’s knife should be an extension of your hand, so you want to make sure it feels good.

 

  1. Type of metal.

    serrated bread knife

    Kitchen knives are made from several different metals, or a combination.  The two most common are carbon- steel or stainless-steel.  The higher the carbon content, the less strong the knife, but the sharper the edge can get.  Also, they tend to be more expensive.  Stainless steel knives are great because they resist against rust and are super strong.  The edge on stainless is harder to keep, in that it probably needs to be sharpened more often.  But it’s still a great material for kitchen knives.  The most common type of steel for kitchen knives is stainless steel.

 

  1. Sets.

    knife bagDo you get a whole set, or do you just buy one or two?  Well… that’s up to you.  Most commercial knife sets offer quite a variety.  And they usually come with a “set” of steak knives.  But you don’t always get the best bang for your buck, so maybe you want to just buy them individually.  Each knife has a specific purpose.  But most can be used for more than one job.  Do you really need two different sized chef’s knives, two utility knives, etc?  On a regular basis, you will probably only use 3-4 different knives.  There are a couple of knives that are great to have, but you won’t use all the time.  And there are a few extra things that are nice to have around.  The following are my suggestions.

 

  • Chef’s knife (the big kahuna) can be used for just about everything. Wide, long blade.  Typically, 10-12 inches long.  Can be traditional or “Santoku” style.

    Chef’s Knife, Santoku style
  • Boning knives are, well…it’s in the name! They are used to remove bones from whole animals and are great for removing skin from fish filets.  Thin, narrow, flexible blade. Typically, 8-10 inches long.
  • Paring knives are best for smaller, more delicate work. Shaped like a chef’s knife, they are usually only 3-4 inches long.
  • Utility knives are shaped much like a chef’s knife but usually shorter and narrower. They are another great work horse on the cutting board.  I use mine when I need to cut something and I feel like the chef’s knife is overkill, but the paring knife won’t quite cut it.  Like an apple.
  • Bread knives are serrated and essential in the kitchen. You may not use it every single day.  But when you need it, you NEED it!  You want one that has a long blade on it, at least 12 inches.  It’s gotta go all the way thru the loaf of bread, so you don’t want a short blade.

    Kitchen Shears
  • Kitchen Shears, or scissors as most people call them, are also great to have around. Don’t use the same scissors the kids use for crafts.  Glitter is not a good garnish.  You want a dedicated set in the kitchen.  They should easily come apart for thorough clean-up.  And you will want to have them sharpened at the same time as your other blades.
  • Honing Steel, a vital tool in every kitchen, should not be overlooked. Most knife sets come with a stainless rod attached to a handle made of the same material as the knives.  But there are lots of different honing steels on the market now.  Mine is a diamond-coated steel shaft made by Wusthof.  Proper honing technique is just as important as the steel itself.  So, learn how to do it properly and your knives will last a lot longer.

 

  1. Storage.

    Professional Knife Kit

    Where do you keep your knives? In a block on the counter?  On a magnet on the wall?  Or…GASP!…in a drawer (at least keep the blades protected with a sheath!)?  Where you store them is up to you, and there are pos and cons to each way.  But until we invent a way for them to magically float in space, we have to keep them somewhere.  The most important factors for you will be space and safety.  So store them in a way that works for you and forget the haters.

  2. Price.

    Unfortunately, just like everything else, price matters.  But you can still get good, quality kitchen knives at just about every price point.  So buy the best you can afford, take great care of them (dishwasher is a big NO-NO!), sharpen the blades regularly and they will last you a long time.

 

 

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Emilie Newcomb

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Emilie Newcomb

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Emile Newcomb.  She is a personal chef and Friend in Chicago

In her own words.

I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 16, starting as a hostess. Over time, I realized that I wanted to be involved in the kitchen. In December 2016, I graduated from Kendall College with a degree in Culinary Arts.

Chef Emilie Newcomb, Chicago

During culinary school, I abandoned any hope for a normal sleep schedule, and worked in the private dining kitchen at Spiaggia. After that, I became a line cook at a Korean restaurant called BellyQ, and then became a chef instructor at Cooking Fools. Teaching cooking classes made me realize that I really enjoyed the type of job that allows me to work with people, as well as food. And then I discovered Friend That Cooks! It’s extremely rewarding to allow myself creative freedom, as well as being able to receive direct feedback from my clients.

When I’m not cooking, I’m still gravitating towards food. I am constantly canning, fermenting, pickling, you name it. Not to brag, but my kombucha is off the chain! (I will happily share upon request.)

In my spare time, I enjoy discovering new restaurants to get inspired with new ideas for my clients. I love the diverse food scene in Chicago.  It almost makes up for the cold weather!

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Eat This Now!

Here is what you should be eating RIGHT NOW!  This is the best time of year for late-summer produce.  Get it at its best, before it’s too late!

https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/ 

Lima Beans, Green Beans, Snap Peas
Lima Beans, Green Beans, Snap Peas

Apples, Arugula, Asian Pears, Basil, Beets, Black-Eyed Peas, Blackberries, Blueberries, Bok Choy, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Celery, Celery Root, Chard, Chili Peppers, Chives, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Garlic, Grapes, Green Beans, Green Onions, Ground Cherries, Horseradish, Kale, Leeks, Lima Beans, Melons, Mint, Mushrooms, Nectarines, Okra, Onions, Oregano, Parsley, Peaches, Peppers, Plums, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Rosemary, Sage, Snap Peas, Snow Peas, Sprouts, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Thyme, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watermelon, Zucchini.radish

If you have ever thought about trying something new, now is the time to try these foods!  Tasting them at the peak of their season means maximum flavor.  Not sure how to prepare them?  That’s why you called us! 😉

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Sounds in the Kitchen

Podcast, Pandora, Talk-Radio…

What do you listen to while you are cooking?  Heavy metal, soft rock, Boss Nova radio on Pandora?  Maybe you don’t listen to music at all or, you prefer talk-radio or the news.  We asked our chefs, and most of them said Pandora or podcasts.  Here are some of their favorite foodie and food-adjacent podcasts.  Share with us your favorites!

Starving For Attention with Richard Blais * Gastropod * Sporkful

The Stew * Stuff You Should Know * The David Chang Show

Gravy Podcast * The Eater Upsell * FoodStuff * Burnt Toast

Serious Eats * Four Top

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Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Tyler Wicezorek

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Tyler Wicezorek.  He is a personal chef and Friend in Indianapolis

In his own words. 

In 2006, I graduated Cum Laude from Sullivan University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. When I started I could barely cook a grilled cheese sandwich or scrambled eggs, but I knew I didn’t want a normal “desk job”.  I also knew I wanted to work with science. I figured at the very least I would never have to worry about going hungry being a chef (I was right!). However, it was a bit different than I expected and a whole lot harder.

Chef Tyler Wicezorek
Chef Tyler Wicezorek

Luckily, I made it through school with my raw determination and friends I had made along the way. I’ve been cooking professionally now for 13 years in kitchens throughout Louisville, including the ones at Churchill downs. Working on the riverboat, The American Queen, cruising the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was definitely my favorite job of the bunch. Before Friend That Cooks, I worked at the steakhouse in Hoosier Park.

When I’m not cooking, I’m the Vice President and co-owner of Wizard of Paws Wildlife Education Inc. along with my wife of 5 years. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary that takes in domestic wildlife that can’t be released back into the wild.  We use them to educate schools and the community about the delicate ecosystem all around us.  Currently, we take-in foxes and New Guinea singing dogs, but are looking to expand and care for more animals with the help of donations from the community.

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Chef’s Spotlight: Krystal Vazquez

Chef’s Spotlight: Chef Krystal Vazquez

This month’s chef’s spotlight is dedicated to Krystal Vazquez.  She is a personal chef and Friend in Kansas City.

In her own words.
Krystal Vazquez
Krystal Vazquez

If there is any universal language (apart from Math, ha) it is food. We all speak it. Food is memory, comfort, caring. Not just the thing that fuels us, but something that brings us together for all manner of celebration. The joy you can bring someone simply by fixing them a scratch-made meal is remarkable. Being a born people pleaser, I knew that in cooking I would find the perfect conduit to spread this joy to others.

Growing up I wasn’t much the Saturday morning cartoon type of kid – I would rather be watching Justin Wilson on PBS. We all remember him, that Cajun chef with his jolly catchphrase “I Guar-on-tee!”. Watching Mr. Wilson was like spending time with a beloved grandparent. I loved his gentle style of storytelling and learning about the food that moved him. With his help, I was about 10 years old when I decided that being a Chef is what I wanted to do with my life.

In high school I took every culinary, nutrition and home economics course offered. I was president of the FCCLA and traveled state wide to participate in cooking competitions. It was at this time I discovered Johnson & Wales University, alma mater of the likes of Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence. In 2004 I graduated Summa Cum Laude with my Associates in Culinary Arts from the Norfolk, VA campus. Several years later after marrying my high school sweetheart and starting my family, I graduated again from Johnson & Wales with my Bachelor’s in Food-Service Operations and Culinary Management.

My career has been spread across prestigious country clubs (The Country Club of Virginia and Pinehurst to name a few). I have been a sous chef in private catering establishments and at upscale senior living communities, which have given me experience not only in event work and fine dining but also therapeutic diets. Joining Friend that Cooks over a year ago has by far been the most gratifying career move I’ve made to date. I’m able to continue my dreams of sharing joy while being able to spend more time with my family. The best of both worlds!

In my free time I also spend time with my goofy bulldogs, I enjoy painting and interior decorating. I’m also fond of the music scene in Kansas City and am always game for a live show. Having the Royals and the Chiefs in the same town is fantastic and I love going to games when I get the chance.

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More Than Salt: The Elements of Cooking

Seasoning Doesn’t Just Mean Salt & Pepper

saltYou’ve meticulously studied the recipe. You’ve gone to specialty grocery stores and purchased every single obscure ingredient. You followed the directions exactly. You seasoned with salt and pepper, plated the exotic meal beautifully, put it on the table, and it tastes. . . ok.

To me, the most important skill a cook can master, in regards to savory cooking, is the ability to taste what you’ve made and then know what you can do to elevate it to perfection. No matter how closely you follow a recipe, there will always be variables in your kitchen and ingredients that differ from those of the author of the recipe. A skillful chef or even a good home cook knows how to combat these differences and fix a meal that needs just that little extra. Most recipes encourage you to season with salt and pepper. I would argue that seasoning with acid, sweetness, and fat are just as important. limesThere’s a reason restaurants often garnish fish with citrus wedges to squeeze or top a steak with a pat of garlic-herb butter.

I think the easiest way to practice the skill of tasting and adding salt, acid, sugar, or fat to perfection is to make a simple vinaigrette. This is the simplest balance of the four components. Whisk up your favorite vinaigrette recipe and then taste it. Does it taste bland? It probably needs more vinegar or salt. Is it too sour? Some added oil (fat) or honey should temper the acidity. Is it too salty? You can dilute the salinity by adding volume to the vinaigrette with vinegar and oil. Does it taste right, but somehow doesn’t feel rounded out? A dab of honey should round out any rough edges. Mastering this process to find the perfect balance is the key. Once you have this skill, you can easily apply it to almost any situation where dinner just seems to need a little pop.

Almost every ethnic cuisine incorporates ingredients that fill the need for each of these elements. Many ingredients bring multiple elements to the dish. The table below lists some basics, but the possibilities and combinations are endless once you become familiar with new ingredients and recognize which of these elements they add to your food.

Cuisine

Salt

Acid

Fat

Sweet

Mexican Salt, Cotija Cheese Lime, Hot Sauce, Pineapple Avocado, Cheese, Crema,

Corn Oil

Pineapple, Piloncillo, Honey
Asian Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Miso Yuzu, Rice Wine Vinegar, Lime Coconut Milk, Silken Tofu, Sesame Oil Mirin, Mango, Papaya
Italian Parmesan, Anchovy, Prosciutto Tomatoes, Balsamic, Lemon Olive Oil, Cheese, Egg Yolk Marsala Wine
French Sea Salt Red Wine Vinegar, Lemon Cream, Butter Port Wine, Orange
Spanish Salt Cod, Iberico Ham, Manchego Cheese Sherry Vinegar Olive Oil, Almonds Honey, Sugar
Southern US Bacon Hot Sauce Butter, Cream Molasses, Sorghum

-Mark Maybon has been a personal chef and Friend for three and a half years.  He serves our Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Twin City markets.