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Breaking It Down: A Guide To Cutting and Cooking Large Winter Squash

Butternut and Spaghetti Squash
Butternut and Spaghetti Squash

It’s fall, and winter squash season.  Everywhere you look there is a tasty new recipe for butternut, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkin.  You Pin them on Pinterest.  You print them off.  You see them piled high on the shelf at the supermarket and……you keep walking.  YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO BREAK THEM DOWN, and it scares you.

Well, we are here to tell you, and show you, how easy it really is to cut up and clean up those big winter squashes so that you can prepare that healthy and tasty recipe.

You will need:

1 large cutting board, either plastic or wood (glass is not a cutting board- it is a serving platter), secured with a wet towel or paper towels to keep it from moving on the counter;

1 large chef’s knife, sharp;

1 squash;

1 kitchen spoon and bowl.

The hardest part about breaking down a large squash is keeping your fingers out of harm’s way while keeping the squash from moving on the counter.  If it works better for you, slice a small portion off the side of the squash, to make a flat spot.  This will keep it from rolling around on the board.

First, rinse off the squash under cool water.  Dry it off with a paper towel.

Slice the ends off of the squash to expose the meat.
Slice the ends off of the squash to expose the meat.

Second, slice off the ends of the squash.  This will expose the interior meat of the squash.  Using a sharp knife is key.  Don’t push straight down on the knife.  Let the blade of the knife do the hard work and rock the blade forward and back, like you are slicing.  If your squash is particularly big, use your other hand to secure the blade of the knife.  But be sure to put a kitchen towel between your hand and the blade in case you slip.  Stitches are NOT part of the recipe!

Turn the squash on end and slice in two.
Turn the squash on end and slice in two.

Third, turn the squash on end and cut in half.  If you are cutting a butternut, cut the squash where the bulb meets the neck.  It is easier to peel and deseed this way.

Fourth, for spaghetti, acorn and similar squash, remove the seeds using the edge of a kitchen spoon.  Discard the seeds.  For butternut, peel the thin skin using either a vegetable peeler or a knife.  Be careful not to remove too much of the meat with the skin.  Remove the seeds from the bulb as described and discard.

Remove the seeds from a spaghetti squash with a kitchen spoon.
Remove the seeds from a spaghetti squash with a kitchen spoon.
Peel the thin skin from a butternut squash using either a knife or a vegetable peeler. Remove the seeds from the bulb.
Peel the thin skin from a butternut squash using either a knife or a vegetable peeler. Remove the seeds from the bulb.

Next, for spaghetti and similar squashes, it is time to cook them.  There are several ways to do it, but the easiest and most basic is to steam them.  Lay them cut side down in a baking pan and add about 1/2 cup of water.  Cover with foil, bake at 375 until tender, about 30 minutes.  For butternut squash, dice the squash to desired size.  If you are using it in a soup, simply rough chop the squash into large pieces.  To roast and add to a salad or as a side dish, dice into smaller pieces.

Dice butternut squash to roast as a side or for a salad.
Dice butternut squash to roast as a side or for a salad.

So next time, don’t pass up that big pile of squash at the grocery store.  Be brave, and pick one out with few blemishes, and feels heavy for its size.  Then take it home and cut it up, because you know how now!  If you don’t use it right away, keep it in a cool dark place for up to several weeks.  But don’t wait too long, because you have a lot of delicious recipes to make!

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha , Des Moines and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets. Learn more at

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September News from Friend that Cooks

Just one week ago, I had one of the
most amazing experiences of my life.
I think I found what my heaven will look like! A few years ago, I heard about this field out near Lawrence, Kansas full of sunflowers. It took me a few years, but last week, I took my mom out for a visit. And it was breathtaking. As far as the eye can see… sunflowers! A million to be exact. I tried growing my own this year. They were from heirloom seeds, so the faces were smaller. But still a cool experiment.
As I watch the life cycle of the sunflowers in the field and how in just a week’s time the blooms have begun to fade, I am reminded of how short the seasons are. In just over a week, it will be officially Autumn. Where did the summer go?! I’m sure my mom-friends with school aged children do not agree, but I wish the summer could last just a little while longer. Of course, with all of the extra rain and mild temperatures we’ve had in the Midwest this year, I can say that. Maybe a few years ago I was begging for a day below 100 degrees by this time. But that was then and this is now… and I want it to stay summer forever!

So instead, I will cherish every last blueberry, the juice from a sun-warmed peach dripping down my chin and the tart bite of a perfectly ripened tomato just picked off the vine. I will load up on squash blossoms and stuff them with the best of the herbs from my garden, deliciously soft goat’s cheese and then fry them to golden perfection. And then eat them with a salad so I feel a little less guilty.

I will watch the sunset a few minutes earlier every evening and think fall will be here before we know it, and so will its produce. Don’t get me wrong, fall is great! It’s actually my favorite time of year. Butthis year, this summer… I’m not ready for it to end.

There is still plenty of late-summer produce at the farmer’s market, so stock up and savor it. Add some fresh corn to your salad. Toss cherry tomatoes in a hot skillet with a little olive oil or butter and sauté just until they burst, then top your steak. There are about 150 bazillion ways to eat zucchini, but how about shredding it and baking it in your oatmeal with blueberries and cinnamon. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it… it’s delicious!

Until next time.

Got Milk? It May Be Better To Not.
Some dietitians think that eliminating milk may lead to weight loss and other health benefits.

Check out this link to read more.

Cutting an onion can be tricky.
But you don’t have to cry about it.
Read about why it’s important to NOT refrigerate your onions, and how to slice them properly.

Use up the last of that beautiful basil and pick the last of the tomatoes.
Here is a tasty and easy recipe you can make for dinner tonight.

Basil Pesto Salmon Recipe

Some of you may be wondering who it is exactly that sends you this newsletter every month.

For those of you who don’t know, my name is Rebecca Nedrow and I am the Director of Operations for Friend that Cooks.

I didn’t start out in life loving food. I was just a regular girl in a regular Midwest town with regular working parents. We had dinner at the dinner table every night. And almost every night it was a meal made from scratch by my mother. Eating out was a luxury, and the extent of things that came out of a box or a can were macaroni and cheese or canned green beans. And those were usually saved for nights my older sister was babysitting. We ate what was on our plate. And if we didn’t, we saw it again later that week, because there was always a leftover night. My parents had a large garden when I was very young, but the only thing I actually remember was the strawberry patch. My mother would send me out to pick strawberries and I usually came back with more in my belly than in the bowl. I have since discovered that I am not blessed with a green thumb. I can’t grow a vegetable to save my life!

When I was older and tall enough to reach the stove top, I did begin to take an interest in baking. My mother’s chocolate chip cookie is one of my favorites to make to this day. But I will never forget the first time I was left on my own to make the recipe for a road trip we were taking, and I confused the teaspoon and tablespoon measures for actual teaspoons and cereal spoons. To say the least, they were awful! The cookies looked fine, but they were extremely salty. On the weekends, my younger brother and I would draw and color “breakfast in bed” menus for my parents. I would be in charge of the eggs. He would make the toast.

My real knack for cooking came in high school. There was one teacher at my school, Mrs. Salazar, that taught all of the cooking classes. I took one as a required credit and was hooked! I took every single class she offered, and had a blast! Science was my other favorite subject. So when it came time to pick a major for college, Dietetics was the logical choice. I went to Kansas State University and received my Bachelor’s in Dietetics.

My senior year, however, I decided I wanted to go to culinary school instead. I graduated, and then immediately enrolled in Johnson County Community College’s Culinary Art’s program. I got very lucky and was able to secure an apprenticeship at 40 Sardines with James Beard award winning Chefs Debbie Gold and Michael Smith. When I completed my degree at JCCC, I left for Charleston, South Carolina and worked at a restaurant called FIG with another James Beard award winning Chef Mike Lata. I have been very fortunate to work alongside some of the greatest chefs in the Kansas City and Charleston areas, and they have all influenced me and help to shape the kind chef I am today. When I left Charleston, I moved to Wichita, Kansas where I eventually found Friend that Cooks. After 2 years, I returned back to Kansas City to help owner Brandon O’Dell with the business, and we have been growing ever since.

My dietetics background not only influences the way I cook for myself and my clients, but it gives me the skills I need to be able to help our clients with special dietary needs and those that need help with specific diets. I take great joy in the fact that I am able to understand on a deeper level what our clients need and be able to work with them. The science of how and why food works in the body is a passion of mine, and I love explaining it to my clients and watch their eyes light up as they begin to understand too!

When I am not watching K-State football with my family at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, I am reading from my cookbook collection, hanging out in downtown Kansas City or following our professional local sports teams. I serve on two executive boards for my sorority’s alumnae group. I also have a dedicated yoga practice and enjoy helping my mom with her flower gardens every spring.

Connect With Us!

Friend That Cooks Personal Chefs
Kansas City: 913.660.0790 | |
Wichita: 316.361.0823 | |
Chicago: 872.205.6068 | |
St. Louis: 314.669.4593 | |
Omaha: 402.819.7916 | |
Des Moines: 515.661.4592 | |
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What do Celiac Disease and Egg Yolks Have In Common?

For most celiac sufferes, going gluten free isn’t really a problem anymore.  With new products popping up on shelves everyday, it’s easy to find a suitable substitute for bead, pasta and other gluten containing ingredients. 

But what if you could take a pill to ease the symptoms associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease?  One researcher may have found a way to do just that.

Check out this article and tell us what you think.

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha , Des Moines and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at

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Blueberry Vinaigrette

There are 4 important components to a good salad.  Texture. Color. Flavor.  Dressing. 

So what happens when you don’t have any dressing?  You make one.  6 ingredients, 2 minutes, and a blender is all it takes to make this tasty blueberry vinaigrette.  And it doubles as a sauce for pork and chicken! 

Blueberry vinaigrette

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (or a combination of mixed berries)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1.  Add berries, vinegar, salt, sugar and water to the blender.  Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. 
2.  Slowly stream in olive oil and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds. 
3.  Transfer to a storage container and clean out your blender. 

Blend until emulsified

The easiest way to clean a blender is to rinse it out, fill half way with hot water and a dab of dish soap, and run the blender for about 20-30 seconds or until clean.  Rinse with clean water and air dry.  Works every time!

Cleaning the blender

Salad saved! 

Spinach, roasted red beet, goat's cheese, red onion, bell pepper, blueberry vinaigrette

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha , Des Moines and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at

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Father's Day Gift Ideas

Father’s day is this Sunday!  Have you thought about what to get your old man?  Well, if your dad is anything like mine, he probably already has an assortment of bad ties and every tool for every project ever made. 

So what do you get the man that already has everything?  Get him a gift certificate from Friend that Cooks for a steak dinner, or some grilling lessons if he’s a do-it-yourself kind of guy. 

Maybe he needs some new grilling gadgets.  Check out the line if grilling and smoking thermometers from Apple iGrill.  The Bluetooth technology makes checking the smoker and meat temperatures while watching the 8th straight hour of Muscle Car a cinch. 

No matter the gift, dad’s are just like moms.  What they really want is a quiet relaxing day spent with family and good friends.  Remember to tell your dad how much he means to you, and be sure to thank him for all he’s done for you.  It’s the best gift money can’t buy. 

               HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Happy Father's Day
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Macadamia Coconut Halibut with Pineapple Pepper Quinoa

I just made this recipe up today.   And if I do say so myself, it was pretty great!

Part of what we do is use ingredients you already have in your fridge and pantry.  Today, my client had macadamia nuts, coconut flakes, quinoa and coconut milk.  The pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut were an obvious combination.  But the orange bell pepper really made it different.  It took the dish from being too sweet, to being just right!  And who doesn’t love Halibut?!  It’s in season, so we can usually find it for a good price.  And we want to use it while we can get it fresh.  It’s a mild, white flaky flatfish found in the cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean.  It goes well with anything, and can be prepared a zillion different ways.  Try it out this week for a different take on familiar favorites.

Don’t want to pay for Halibut?  Try using cod.  It’s just as flaky and mild.  Don’t know how to cut up a fresh pineapple? Use canned.  It’s ok, just make sure it’s packed in 100% pineapple juice instead of syrup.  Want to use different vegetables?  Go for it!  The bell pepper, zucchini and English peas spoke to me at the store.  But you can pretty much put just about anything in this and it will taste great!  To keep the recipe from blowing up in the pan, stick to just 3.  And go for a variety of colors for maximum nutrition.

For picky kiddos that don’t like veggies, cut them up extra small.  The quinoa and coconut milk will hide them and make them sweeter.  Kids don’t like their foods mixed?  Leave the veggies out and put them on their plate separately.


Here’s the recipe. ENJOY!!

Macadamia Coconut Crusted Halibut, Pineapple Pepper Quinoa

Yields 2 servings

1/2 pound fresh English pea pods, shelled, or 1/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1/4 cup diced fresh pineapple, or more if desired

1/4 cup plain Macadamia nuts

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flake

10-12 oz fresh Halibut filet, skinned, cut into 2 (5-6 oz) portions

Kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, ice water bath for peas

1. Preheat convection oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Season well with salt.

3. Shell pea pods and rinse peas under cold running water. Blanch in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp. Remove from boiling water and cool in ice bath. Discard salted water.

4. To prepare quinoa, in the same saucepan used for the peas, combine quinoa, broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated and quinoa has sprouted. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the fish. In a food processor, combine the Macadamia nuts and coconut flakes. Pulse until it resemble course crumbles. Transfer to a small bowl and add about 1-2 teaspoons olive oil and combine to make a paste.

6. Transfer the fish to a prepared rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper, and cover with the coconut mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and fish is tender and flaky.

7. In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat. Saute bell pepper and zucchini until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to the quinoa and stir to mix. Fold in about 2/3 of the cilantro, blanched English peas and diced pineapple.

8. To plate, add half of the quinoa and vegetables to the center of each plate. Top with the fish, and finish with a sprinkle of the remaining chopped cilantro, if desired.

(The vegetables used in this recipe can be substituted for almost any combination of vegetables desired.)

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets. We send a talented chef to your home for a half day every week to shop, cook, clean up and stock your refrigerator with a week’s worth of healthy prepared meals to reheat. Learn more at

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Happy Mother's Day


To all of the mothers out there, we think you are special.  We can never thank you enough for all you do.  Enjoy your day as we celebrate you. 


Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at

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Basic Nutrition: Athletes v. Everyone Else

The purpose of this article is to outline basic information about nutrition and the body’s minimum requirements for daily use.  I will also discuss the nutritional needs for athletes and how they may differ from the average, mildly active adult.  This information is to be used for educational purposes only and should be used in conjunction with supervision and support from your physician.  It is not intended to be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition.  

You are not a Bromiliad.  This is a Bromiliad.


It is a plant that gets it’s nutrients from the air and water.  You are a human being.  And you require nutrients from the foods you eat.  Some individuals require more nutrients than others due to higher levels of activity.  Others require less.  Nutrition is a science, but for the most part, we succeed in finding our optimal diet by trial and error. What works best for one may not work at all for someone else.  And it is important to remember that the human body is a complicated system and there is no one size fits all diet.


The first thing we need to talk about is the calorie.  You’ve seen this word before.  It’s on the back of every food label in the United States.  Every diet mentions it and every 80’s mom became obsessed with counting them.  But what is a calorie really?  By definition, the kilocalorie is the amount of energy needed to raise on kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.   But that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone in the real world, so let me break it down to you like this.  Basically, 3500 kilocaloreis, (or calories for short), is about 1 pound of body weight.  So if you eat 3500 calories, you will gain 1 pound of body weight.  For someone wanting to maintain their body weight, calories in should match calories out.  That means if you eat 2000cal/day, you need to burn 2000cal/day.

How do you figure that out?  Ok…..this is how it works.  Keep in mind this is for an “average” adult.  I will get into more detail later.  The average human body has basic functions, like breathing, heart beating, eyes blinking, etc.  If you sat in a chair or laid in a bed all day every day and did absolutely nothing else, you would require a minimum of 1200 cal/day.  But for most of us, we do a little more than that.  We get out of bed, go to work, get the kids to school, do laundry, file TPS reports, take the kids to soccer, walk the dog, brush our teeth, etc.  And all of that, on average, requires about 800 calories.  So…1200 for basic bodily function + 800 for daily activities = 2000 cal/day.  But some of us eat more than 2000 calories and do less work, and others eat less than 2000 calories and do more work.  Which is why we gain and lose weight at different rates.

Athletes, on the other hand, have different requirements.  Basically, they require more because they, or you, presumably, are doing more work.  You need to take in more calories than the average Joe because you are burning more calories.  So if you want to maintain your body weight, then you need to figure out how many extra calories you are burning during your workout and then eat that many more.  The best way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor.  If you have a professional trainer, he or she can guide you to figuring out the averages for the type of workout you do.

Most people working out do not want to “maintain“, however.  You are in the market to either lose weight, like most adults between 20 and 80.  Or you are in the market to gain weight, think professional athletes and bodybuilders.  So, to lose you have to eat fewer calories and to gain you have to eat more.  But it’s not that simple.  Quality of calories matter, meaning, the type of foods you eat will determine how you gain or lose the weight.  The human body doesn’t require just any calories.  It requires specific calories from specific foods with specific nutrients.  Which means if you are trying to lose weight, you can’t just binge on junk food and cut out all of the healthy stuff you don’t like.  And if you are trying to gain muscle mass, you can’t just shove a bunch of meat into your mouth and expect it to land on your biceps.  Remember when I said that the human body is complicated?  Here’s why.

Macro Nutrients

There are three macro nutrients the body requires: protein, carbohydrate and fat.  Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals….but those are for a different discussion.  The following is a breakdown of the three macro nutrients and their role in overall nutrition for athletes.


This may be the single most important nutrient, aside from water.  Its presence in the diet in adequate amounts is crucial for many important functions, not just muscle development, like hormone synthesis, enzyme reactions, structural development, immunoproteins (think immune system) and transport proteins (think red blood cells).  There are two major sources of protein, plant and animal.  Animal protein is the most common form of protein.  It’s meat.  It’s abundant, it’s easy, and most importantly, it’s complete.  Plant protein, is well, different.  Plants have protein too.  But it’s not the same.  And most plants do not contain complete proteins.

What is a complete protein?  All proteins are made of chains, different combinations of amino acids.  There are 20 amino acids in total.  9 of them are essential, meaning your body does not synthesize them.  So you have to eat them.  A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids.  Very few plant protein sources are complete.  Quinoa is an exception.  It is the tiny seed grain reintroduced from ancient Incan practices.  Most other plant protein sources need to be eaten in combination, however, to make complete amino acid chains.  For example, peanut butter and bread, beans and rice, pasta and peas.  Basically, what one source lacks, the other makes up.  There is debate about whether or not protein sources should be consumed at the same time.  The theory is that two different protein sources can combine when eaten at different times to form a complete protein.  The other side of that argument is that when one source is eaten at an earlier time, the amino acids are digested and then used or stored and cannot be combined with others eaten later to form the complete protein.  Therefore, some proteins may never form creating a deficiency.

So how important is protein and does it matter how much you eat?  Let’s talk about the importance of protein as it relates to fitness and sports first.  The most important function of protein as it relates to this topic is its role in structural support and movement, i.e muscle tissue.  Different sports and levels of fitness require different types of muscle tissue.  For example, a long distance runner needs to be as light as possible so she can run for long periods of time and use as little energy as possible.  So her muscle tissue will be lean and light.  Also, because her activity is highly aerobic, the type of energy her muscles use is different.  She will likely use all of the available blood glucose and rely on the glycogen stores in her muscle tissue for energy.  While her ideal diet is carb heavy, she will rely on protein for muscle repair and to prevent atrophy.  On the contrary, a sprinter will rely on a high protein diet to build and maintain dense and heavy muscle tissue.  The sprinter’s muscle composition is thicker and shorter fibers.  He needs strong muscles that can push him off the starting block quickly and only need to run for short periods of time.  He will also rely on carbohydrate as a fuel source, but in a smaller ratio to protein.  A weightlifter will have the heaviest and most dense muscle tissue.  His diet will consist primarily of protein for maximum muscle tissue repair and growth.

The average protein intake requirements vary depending the type of activity.  But the standard is .8g/kg, or .36g/lb of body weight.  For a weightlifter, the standard goes up to 2.4g/kg.


The great and powerful carbohydrate… you’d think it was hiding behind a big green curtain at the end of a yellow brick road.  It may not be the wizard, but it is complicated.  There are good carbs, bad carbs, simple carbs, complex carbs.  Let’s break down the different types of carbohydrates and how they are used for energy, and then discuss when to use them.

Good carbs versus bad carbs, what’s the difference?  I think in order to simplify an explanation, the word “bad” was attached to a list of certain foods with a certain carbohydrate content.  Bad is a matter of opinion, and that’s not what this article is about.  But I think we can all agree that some are more nutritive and effective than others.

The complicated version of that story is that carbohydrates can be broken down into two groups, simple and complex.  There are three specific groups; monosaccharides, which are “simple” sugars, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.  The later two are the more complex sugars and starches.  They are digested and absorbed differently, and they serve different purposes.  The simple sugars are digested and absorbed quickly and circulated for utilization immediately.  Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and have a more lasting effect on blood sugar levels.

The lists of simple and complex carbs isn’t quite as simple as identifying mono and polysaccharides.  But in general, the more whole the food is, the more complex it is.  Conversely, the more refined it is, the more simple it is.  For example, whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat are more complex carbohydrates.  Vegetables and fruits also fall in to this category.  Foods like sugar, honey and refined grains like white rice and “white” pasta have been processed to remove that which makes them harder to digest.  It also removes that which controls blood sugar levels.

There are many important purposes for carbohydrates.  Fiber, the most complex carb of all, is important for maintaining blood sugar levels, aiding with satiety (the feeling of fullness) and regulating digestion and elimination (pooping).  And the brain only uses carbohydrates, specifically glucose.  So if that’s the case, then how do we survive on low carb diets?  When blood glucose is low due to reduced consumption, the body makes up for it by breaking down stored fat and protein, converting it into glucose.  This is a very effective way to reduce body fat.  However, when one is trying to build muscle, low carb diets can be counterproductive; any protein consumed goes to rebuilding protein lost from muscle degradation instead of building bigger muscles.  Remember the two runners from earlier, the marathon runner and the sprinter?  The long distance runner consumes a diet high in carbohydrates, carboloading before a run to increase the amount of glycogen (or stored glucose) in the muscle cells.  The sprinter consumes a more balanced carbohydrate diet to maintain sufficient calorie and blood glucose levels.

The bodybuilder, however, has a more on-again off-again relationship with carbs.  Consuming whole grains, fruits and vegetables in a lower ratio to protein during the building and training phases, and often eliminating carbs all together the days and weeks leading up to competition.  The upside are the results.  Since the body then relies on lipolysis (breakdown of fat), bodyfat percentages are at their lowest to maximize muscle fiber visibility.  The downside is the brain fog.  Basically, bodybuilders become eating, weightlifting, spray tanning zombies.  Side effects include mood swings, trouble with concentration and focus, and increased fatigue, not to mention constipation.

The bottom line is that carbohydrates are important.  They play a vital role in several systems including metabolism, hormone synthesis, and brain function.  The ideal amount of carbohydrates consumed depends on the type of activity performed.  But the more nutrient dense the better.


It’s the most energy dense of the nutrients, providing 9 calories of energy per gram.  Because of that, a little bit goes a long way.  Foods high in fat include nuts, seeds, oils (solids and liquids), butter and avocados.  Some other foods can be high in fat, like some cuts of beef, pork and dairy (like cheese).

There are “good” and “bad” fats.  Mainly those that contribute to good health are considered good.  Those that contribute to negative health effects are considered bad.  The more saturated a fat is, the harder it is on the body.  But it’s not a good idea to eliminate fat from the diet.  It is essential for several body processes like hormone regulation, heart health, skin health, blood flow, growth and development (infants and children), brain development, cell membrane structure and satiety (there’s that word again).  And, some fatty acids are essential, like omega-3 and omega-6.

Over the years, we have gone from fat is bad, to fat is good.  From high fat diets to low fat diets, back to high fat diets.  The current thought is that fat should comprise 3% of ones total calories.  And the more nutrient dense the fat the better.

For athletes, fats round out a balanced diet.  As mentioned above, it is an essential nutrient that is responsible for many important systems and functions.  So it should not be eliminated.  But as all other nutrients, it should be consumed in moderation.

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

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets. Learn more at
We send a talented chef to your home for a half day every week to shop, cook, clean up and stock your refrigerator with a week’s worth of healthy prepared meals to reheat.

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Signs of Spring

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

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

Fennel, Watermelon Radish Salad

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Leftover brown rice and veggies with white fish fillet

Friend that Cooks personal chefs in Wichita, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at