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. 

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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
Evoo

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.
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 http://www.friendthatcooks.com

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. 

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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. 

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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 http://www.friendthatcooks.com

Low Carb Tacos

Tacos are great!  They are quick, easy, and you can use just about anything to make one.  Street tacos are the best.  But who has time to slow roast a whole pig?  Beef, chicken and even fish filets make awesome choices too. 

Watching your carb intake?  Or maybe you just want to get in more veggies?  Try stuffing a half a bell pepper, or pile on top of shredded cabbage.  Not into meat?  Try black or red beans.  Just make sure to add some rice to make it a complete protein. 

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Taco Bowl

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 http://www.friendthatcooks.com

Fried Rice Is The Best

Need to get dinner on the table fast? Like 5 minutes fast?  Don’t make a run through the drive-thru.  Make fried rice instead.  It’s tasty, fast, and cheap! 

Step One:  Pull out all of those leftover veggie remnants from the frige, or the freezer. 
Step two:  Rice….it’s important.  If you have leftover rice, this dish will be fast.  If you dont have rice, but maybe have some leftover noodles, use that instead and make lo mein.  No rice or noodles?  Skip the starch all together or make some fresh. 
Step three: Get that pan on the heat.  Add some butter, olive oil, coconut oil…whatever you have and want to use. 
Step four:  Crack some eggs and whip them up.  Chop up a few cloves of garlic. 

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Leftover veggies in the pan

Step five:  Get those veggies on the heat!  If your veggies are raw, they will take an extra minute or two to saute.  If you have some cooked leftover veggies, save those for the end.  You don’t want them to get soggy. 

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Saute raw veggies for a minute or two

Step six:  Put the cooked veggies in a bowl and now add your eggs.  Scramble the eggs until they are cooked through.  This will only take about 2 minutes. 
Step seven:  Remove the eggs and add to the bowl with the veggies.  Put the rice/noodles in the pan.  Warm through and now add your sauce.  If you have stir fry sauce, use that. If not, add a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and some garlic powder to the rice.  Stir it all up.  Add the veggies and the eggs and stir together well. 

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Finished product

Now you have a delicious, healthful and cheap meal ready in about 5 minutes. 

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 http://www.friendthatcooks.com

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

fresh free range eggs

Fresh free range eggs

Eggs….they are cheap, readily available and delicious.  They are also exceptionally nutritional. One large hen egg has approximately 70 calories and 6 grams of protein.  The white, almost exclusively protein, is the lowest calorie part of the egg.  The yolk, often regarded as the forbidden part of the egg, is high in fat.  But it also contains some pretty important nutrients like iron, vitamins A and D, protein (yes, there is protein here too!), and choline, an essential (meaning your body doesn’t make it on its own) nutrient that helps with memory, muscle movement and the construction of cell walls.  So don’t discard those yolks.  They are like liquid gold for the body!  Unless you are watching your cholesterol.  Then you should limit your consumption.

Hard boiled eggs make a great snack.  They are quick to eat, pair well with fruits and vegetables, and are portable.  They also make the quintessential BBQ and tailgating accouterment called the deviled egg. You can make a batch at the beginning of the week and eat them all week long!  There is a right way to do it though, so don’t just think you can throw some hot water on a raw egg and it’s going to come out perfectly cooked!  You know that icky grey ring around the yolk?  That didn’t just happen.  It means you cooked your eggs too long.  Without going all science nerd on you, some compounds combined with other compounds during the cooking process and produced hydrogen sulfide gas.  It’s mostly harmless, but it looks bad.  So if you want your hard boiled eggs to be photograph ready, or you have picky kids that won’t eat anything that looks like it should be on the Incredible Hulk’s restaurant menu, follow these steps and you will have perfectly hard boiled eggs every time.  There is more than one way to do it, but this is how I was taught and it has yet to fail me!

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Hard boiled eggs

Why do some eggs take forever to peel and take half of the egg white with it?  Well, simply put, those were fresh eggs.  The older the eggs, the easier they will peel.  The air cell (the air space between the egg white and the shell in it’s raw state) gets bigger the older the egg gets.  When the egg white shrinks, it creates more space between the shell and the protein molecules.  When the white is cooked and the proteins coagulate, the air space expands and voila……easy-to-peel eggs.  Use older eggs for hard boiling.  Save the fresh ones for omelets and meringues.

1. Prepare your eggs.  Set them out on the counter for a few minutes while you prepare all of your supplies.  This will take the edge off the chill and prevent the shells from splitting in the boiling water.  Put a 2 quart pot filled about half-way with water on the stove top and bring to a boil.  If you are cooking more than about 6 eggs, use a bigger pot.  If you need less space, use a smaller one.

2.  When the water is boiling, vigorously, not splashing all over the stove top, carefully add the eggs to the water using a slotted spoon.  Set your timer for 11 minutes.  If the shells split, no worries.  They whites may leak out and create a foam on the surface of the water.  But they will still be edible.  Skim the foam off the surface from time to time.  If the water starts to boil super rapidly and splashes water all over the place, turn the heat down a smidge.  You want the water to stay in the pot so it can cook the eggs.  But don’t turn it down too much.  You want hard cooked egg yolks, not poached eggs in shell.

3.  Prepare your ice bath.  Use a bowl big enough to fit lots of ice and water and the eggs.  Use several scoops of ice and top with cold water.  The ice cubes should not melt.  Otherwise you will have just cold water, not iced water.  This is important, so take the time to do it right.

4.  When your time goes off, you will probably be in another room doing something else.  So hurry back to the kitchen.  You only have about 30 seconds to get the eggs out of the boiling water and into the ice bath before the hydrogen sulfide gas reacts with iron in the yolk to produce that icky grey ring.  Using a slotted spoon again, carefully remove the eggs from the water and put into the ice bath.  Let the eggs cool completely, about 5 minutes or so. Drain the water, and store the eggs in the refrigerator for about a week.  I like to keep mine in an open plastic container or bowl lined with a folded paper towel.

5.  When you are ready to eat, gently tap the shell on a hard surface, such as the counter top, and peel under running water.  If the eggs were fresh, this could be a tricky process.  If they were older, they should peel in one piece, maybe two.

If you are watching your calories or cholesterol, remove the yolk and only eat the whites.  You will save yourself about 50 calories.  Slice, dice, mash or leave whole.  They are so versatile I may have to write an entire article of all of the uses for a hard boiled egg!

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Sliced hard boiled egg

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, Kansas City, Chicago and St. Louis offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.  Learn more at http://www.friendthatcooks.com.  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.

A Pyramid Scheme for Bacteria

How often do you do laundry?  I’m serious…..how often do you wash your clothes?  Or maybe a better question to ask is how often do you wear something before you wash it?

What about your reusable grocery bags?  When was the last time you washed those?  Oh Yeah…….you forgot about those!  That smelly pile of canvas festering in the darkest corners of your trunk.  Not the pile of gym clothes that have been hiding out since September….you never have time to get to the gym anyway, right?!  It’s the bacteria riddled grocery bags that carried last month’s stockpile of ground beef that was on sale for $3.99/pound and next month carries the fresh veggies for the veg platter you are taking to the Super Bowl party at the neighbor’s house.

See where I’m going with this?  You wash your hands, you sanitize the grocery cart handle, you bleach every inch of the bathroom…..but you never wash those bags!  And they are the primary source for cross contamination.  Cross what??  You know…when bacteria from one thing gets onto another.  You sneeze on your hand and then shake hands with your boss and he wipes his face with that hand.  That’s cross contamination.  You put raw chicken on a cutting board and then use that same board for vegetable prep.  That’s cross contamination.  You use your bags for one thing and then use them for another.  THAT’S CROSS CONTAMINATION!!  I am not a germ-a-phobe.  I grew up with a dad that told us we need to eat more dirt.  Proverbial dirt, I’m sure.  Nevertheless, more dirt.  But your grocery bags are just wrong.

And I hear about it, people!  I am at a different grocery store twice a day 4 days a week for clients. That’s 8 different grocery stores, every week.  They know me in there.  Not because I am there every week.  Well….maybe that’s why.  But they LOVE me because my bags always smell like laundry detergent and the bag guys don’t feel like they need a hazmat suit just to pack my groceries.  I didn’t realize that this was a problem until they said something.  So I did some research and what I found was pretty disturbing.

A year ago, USA Today published an article about a study by the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University from 2012 on reusable grocery bags and the carts we put them in.  You can read the article here: usatoday.com article reusable grocery bags and germshttp://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/06/reusable-grocery-bag-germs/4341739/

But to summarize, the germs we carry around in those bags can spread like norovirus. And I’m not talking about the garden variety germs that reside naturally on your very own skin (cough*staph*cough).  I’m talking about deal breakers, like E. coli.

It’s a pyramid scheme for germs!  You carry the bag inside, now the germs are on your hands.  You put the bags in the cart.  Now those germs are on your hands and your cart.  You touch the produce and put it back…..on your hands, the cart, the produce you touched and now the produce that produce touched……do I really need to go on?

If you already use reusable bags, that’s GREAT! If you remember to take them into the store, even BETTER! Now I challenge you to take it one stop further and wash them every once in a while.

This is not a public service announcement, friends.  This is an intervention.  I know, I know.  We touch thousands of things every day that harbor bacteria and viruses.  You eat more germs than you even want to know.  That’s right cafeteria salad bar….I’m talking to you.  But it’s not just the germs you can’t see.  Look at the inside.  That’s dirt and food stains. Take a whiff. They smell like dirty gym socks. And it’s gross.  So wash your bags and do it often, like once a month. Or more often if you have a particularly juicy package.  With soap and water please. You will do us ALL a favor! And while you’re at it, quit buying the polyurethane bags. They are hard to keep clean and fall apart. Invest in some heavy duty canvas bags that you can throw in the washer and dryer.

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.

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.

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 http://www.friendthatcooks.com

It’s More Than A Meal

We are chefs.  It’s what we do.  You hire us, we come to your home once a week, and we cook for you.  We cook for you and your family.  It’s our job, our career, our LIFE.

Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

For most of us, food is our life.  We eat, drink (ha…get it!?), breath, and live our lives around food.  We don’t just go to the store and buy what ever is on the shelf and then go home and shove it in our faces.  Ok…..sometimes we do that.  But the other 364 days of the year, we think about where that food came from, where it was raised, how far away it was grown, which farm it came from.  We think about perfectly caramelized meat, which knife cut to use on those vegetables, how much time the kale should steam in the pan.  We plan our holiday meals 90 days in advance because we are so excited for that one day when we get to do what we love to do, all day long, for all of our friends and family, and it’s a HOLIDAY!  Food isn’t all we care about.  We all have other interests outside of the kitchen.  But food is like……really important.

So after we have prepared all of these gloriously nutritious, perfectly delicious meals for you and your family to eat, we go home to our own families.  And just like any other person at any other job, we sometimes think about the work we did that day and what we would have done differently….Should I have used basil instead of oregano?  That whatever would have been great with mushrooms too.  Blah, blah, blah.  Sometimes we think about how great we did……That soup was the BOMB!  That was the most perfect medium rare on a prime rib EVER!

Prime Rib

Salt crusted prime rib with bacon, garlic and herbs

And every once in a while, we get a text or an email from you…. “I can’t remember the last time we could sit down together as a family.  Especially before 8:30.  Such a treat for all of us.”  “I thought I would like the food but I didn’t know what to expect.  It is absolutely amazing!!  I have NEVER looked forward to dinner, but now, it’s family time again.”

 Babcock Family

Babcock Family "we love you"

Or “WOW!!  I caught my kids sneaking your roasted broccoli from the fridge last night!  BROCCOLI!”

 Mongolian Beef

Braden and his Mongolian Beef and Cabbage

And “I wanted to thank you for assisting my athlete during his off-season training program.  Your attention to details and ability to adapt his meals…were outstanding.”

 Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown

Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown


(me with Arthur Brown of the Baltimore Ravens and Bryce Brown of the Buffalo Bills)

For most of our clients, our service isn’t just about helping out because you have 50 million other things to do that day.  It’s a matter of eating or not.  It’s a matter of health and quality of life.  It’s about managing diabetes, congestive heart failure, food allergies and how the heck to get your kids to eat something other than a chicken nugget. So when you send us that message, and we see the joy on your faces, or hear the relief in your voice, our hearts are filled with joy.  This totally makes our day!  To know that what we have done for you, whether it was to help you get to that goal weight, get your kids to eat broccoli, reduce the sodium in your diet or just get dinner on the table before 9:00 pm….brings us the most satisfaction.  We put more than just a meal on that table.  And that’s the best Thank You.

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 and Kansas City offer weekly meal prep for families with busy schedules, food allergies or special diets.

In Kansas City and Wichita learn more:  www.friendthatcooks.com

Check us out in Chicago:  www.friendthatcookschicago.com

and St. Louis: www.friendthatcooksstl.com