Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by Bleu Harvest Personal Chef Services.
Chef Kari Kramer understands some of the difficulties associated with feeding a busy family today. Her business, Bleu Harvest Personal Chef Services, aims to remove some of those stresses — planning, shopping, meal preparation, not to mention satisfying discriminating tastes — and give families back what they need most: time.
After graduating with a degree in biology and working as a research associate, Kramer finally decided to pursue her love of food and cooking. In 2007, she completed training from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta.
Kramer has worked in various restaurants in the Midwest and South, as well as a Michelin two-star restaurant in Switzerland. She enjoys cooking a variety of cuisines, including French, Asian, and Contemporary American, but focuses her cooking style on local, seasonal foods, seeking out great local artisans, farmers, and producers. Her main goal is to create meals that are both healthy and delicious.
When not in the kitchen, Kramer can be found teaching tennis with the Champaign Park District. She is also the chapter leader of Slow Food Champaign-Urbana, and volunteer monthly at the Wesley Food Pantry. In any spare time, Kramer enjoys being outdoors with her two dogs and boyfriend.
Here’s more from the chef:
Why did you decide to start cooking? What do you love about it?
As a child, I spent most weekends with my grandma, who was a fabulous cook. I listened to stories of her childhood growing up in rural Minnesota with 12 brothers and sisters. They of course had a large garden, cow, chickens, etc. I didn’t realize until much later in life that those stories would form the basis of my cooking style. I love cooking with seasonal products, knowing where my food comes from, and sharing that with others. I also really love the simplicity and taste of excellent quality ingredients.
Why should busy families consider a personal chef?
A personal chef gives you the freedom and flexibility at dinner time! Coming home from a long day at work and don’t want to cook, or don’t have the time? Perhaps you don’t like cooking, or maybe you love it, but tonight is just too busy. Whichever the case, you still want to have a healthy meal on the table for you and your family. A personal chef service allows this and more. All you need to do is reheat and serve!
I think one of my clients says it best: “Your meal service is great, and I tell anyone who asks how I’m eating but not cooking all about it! I’m down 15 pounds and my cholesterol is down 40 points due to nutrition and lifestyle changes I’ve been able to make because of your service. My family’s eating better and together at the table, and this working mother can spend more downtime with her son. Needless to say, I’m a fan!”
We’d talked about how sometimes it is actually more cost-effective for you to do the meal planning/shopping/cooking because there is less waste. Can you elaborate on that?
Since I do the menu planning and shopping, I know exactly what to buy and the quantities needed. I know what your staples are, too, so I won’t be buying extra couscous when you have bags of it in the pantry, for example.
Your grocery bill is generally around the same price each time, and often quite less than what you might spend yourself as I won’t be making any impulse purchases for you!
And no need to waste food you already have. I will utilize that lone carrot on its last leg in the refrigerator.
What are some of your favorite meals for families and why?
Most of my meals are perfect for families because they are well rounded, including lots of veggies! The spinach and cheese stuffed chicken breasts with couscous or mashed potatoes are a good way to sneak in the spinach for kids. If you have a household of adventurous eaters, you will be happy. I like to find fun ways to incorporate beans, pulses, fish, and other heart healthy proteins into meals. Popular favorites include Lemon and Horseradish Salmon Cakes with braised greens and caramelized onions, Homemade Mac ’n’ Cheese, Sheppard’s Pie, and the Chicken, Spinach and Broccoli Casserole with brown rice.
Kids can be picky! How do you get around that with your recipes?
I am very adaptable, and happy to customize menus. For example, if two people in the household don’t eat broccoli, and two do, a recipe can be adapted to suit both needs. Substitutions are generally easy. I have experience working with special diets as well including gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, and vegan.
With a general assessment of what your children like to eat, it is fairly easy to adapt a healthy recipe. For example, homemade pizza has a lot less sodium and processed sugars than a frozen box pizza or Pizza Hut.
Why are family dinners so important? And why do you think so many families struggle with getting a home-cooked meal on the table?
Dinner time is an important bonding time, a time to sit together and share your days’ stories over a nice meal. A time to appreciate each other, and be thankful for what you have; a time to enjoy each other. It’s also a time to nourish yourself and your family with a healthy meal.
I think families struggle with dinner because often both parents are working, kids have after school activities, homework, laundry, feed the dog, chores — everyday life. As a society, we are becoming busier in our everyday lives, leaving less time to take care of one another and enjoy each others’ company.
There are two ways to experience Bleu Harvest and Kari Kramer’s talents. Below, Kramer has shared two recipes to try on your own time. In addition, Kramer is offering Chambanamoms readers a “taste” of the action. Leave a comment below sharing a tip to make mealtime faster or friendly, and you’ll be entered to win one free trial meal. The winner will receive an entrée plus a side item, serving four to six people — including the shopping, cooking and clean-up!
Fish Cakes (serves eight)
Children seem to love the frozen fish sticks, so this is my version of a healthy alternative. You can even form them into “logs” instead of cakes!
Note: Copper River Salmon is an excellent choice and in season right now; Tilapia or Cod make great options as well. Don’t think the kids will like the bite from the horseradish, substitute with mustard!
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb fish fillets
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 Cup light mayonnaise
- 1/2 Cup chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
- ½ Cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, (from about 2 lemons)
- 3 Tbsp bottled white horseradish (or mustard)
- 1 1/2 Cups coarse cracker crumbs, or other breadcrumbs (panko work nicely, too)
- Tartar sauce, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease with oil. Place fish fillets on sheets; season with salt and pepper. Roast until just cooked, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool completely; pat dry with paper towels (to absorb excess moisture) With a fork or your hands, flake fish into a bowl. The fish should be in small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, mayonnaise, parsley, carrots, lemon juice, and horseradish. Fold in fish and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs; season with salt and pepper. Place remaining 1 cup crumbs on a plate. Form 8 large or 16 small cakes or logs, using about ½ cup for 8 or ¼ cup for 16 of the fish mixture. Gently dredge cakes in crumbs, pressing to help adhere.
Place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper or Saran wrap. Freeze until just firm (approximately 10 minutes or so). This will make cooking a lot easier; you can also freeze for storage at this point too.
In a large skillet over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Sautee the cakes until slightly brown, about 4 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce, if desired. Coleslaw or steamed vegetable make a nice side dish.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp (serves six to eight)
This is a perfect late Spring early Summer Dessert! Any seasonal berry can be substituted in or out. The recipe is simple and the family will love it!!
- 4 Cups fresh rhubarb, about 4-5 stalks cut into 1 inch cubes; or substitute blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or just all strawberry!
- 4 Cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, if large
- 1/2 Cup honey or granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Cup quick-cooking oatmeal, or substitute chopped nuts such as walnuts or almonds
- 12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced (1 1/2 sticks)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the fruit, combine the berries, honey or sugar, and the zest together in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice and then mix it into the fruit. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and place it on a sheet pan to catch any liquid that falls out.
For the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt and oatmeal (or nuts) in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix together with your hands until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for 45 min. – 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream if desired.
No purchase necessary for giveaway. Only one entry per person. Contest will be wrapped up by 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 27 Winners will be picked at random by random.org. Winners must respond to email notification within 48 hours or another winner will be selected. Open to U.S. residents 18 and older.