Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soup Kitchen Chef Serves up $73 Side of Caviar

How much would you pay for a seven-course meal that starts with a $73 serving of caviar?

For the needy who dine at Broadway Community soup kitchen on the upper West Side, the answer is $0.

That's because the chef at the W. 114th St. soup kitchen got a special donation this Christmas: a 500-gram, $1,100 tin of Petrossian Malossol sturgeon caviar.

"We do this 52 weeks a year, and it's not usually about the fancy," said Michael Ennes, chef at the low-income advocacy organization Broadway Community. "But when someone gives you an $1,100 tin of caviar, it gets fancy."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Choosing Between Death and Football

 This week's Outside the Lines on ESPN presented a sad, yet inspiring story of one man's battle against the culture that his young charges are forced to grow up in.




"Walker is battling a mentality that glorifies death. He's battling a culture that has produced one of the saddest visions possible: Young men being laid to rest in their grandparents' burial plots. He sees poor families spending $500 on airbrushed "RIP" T-shirts for dead teenagers, little kids running around a funeral like it's Disneyland. The bedroom walls of little brothers have shrines to murdered older brothers instead of posters of their favorite players.
"I see people standing over the coffin of a 17-year-old saying, 'Oh, he looks so good,'" Walker says. "I want to say, 'Oh, no he doesn't, not if you saw the back of his head the way I saw it.' They're ignoring reality."

Read the entire story here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Outreach Worker Offers Indy' Homeless a Helping Hand a Warm Heart

Donnie Robinette has spent 14 years doing what he can to help Indianapolis' homeless

By Will Higgins
will.higgins@indystar.com

 
It's obvious Terry Miles is resourceful. But it's also clear he needs help, and Donnie Robinette offers it to him, gently, unobtrusively.


"Terry, I'm going to bring a doctor around next week, OK?" Robinette said the other day while visiting Miles in the jury-rigged plywood shack along the White River that Miles calls home.


Miles has been homeless most of the past 15 years. Bearded and craggy, he is 54 but looks 64.
He said a doctor would be OK.


"Terry, is there anything else I can do for you?" Robinette asked.


No, nothing. The men shook hands and parted.


Robinette has had countless such exchanges with the city's homeless over the past 14 years. All part of the job -- and a tough one it is.


Robinette, 52, is one of roughly a dozen homeless- outreach workers in Indianapolis and the most senior. His job, short-term, is to keep homeless people alive. Long-term, he tries to persuade them to accept counseling, job training, housing, to coax them to "come in," as he says.


As the weather worsens, the need for proper shelter becomes pressing. But Robinette doesn't push it.
His exchange with Miles is typical of the delicate yet persistent negotiations that can span years.


"You can't judge," said Robinette, who works for the Homeless Initiative Program. "If I said, 'I'm here to save you,' they'd say, 'From what?' I like Terry. I've worked with him four years. He's not ready to come in."


Robinette's understanding of the homeless -- his street knowledge -- is said to be unsurpassed.


"Donnie knows all the nooks and crannies," said Melissa Burgess, who used to work with Robinette and now is a manager at Horizon House homeless day center.


"If I need to know something (about the homeless)," said Sgt. Bob Hipple, of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Downtown district, "I ask Donnie."


"Homeless" covers a range of people: from those out of work or underemployed who are "doubling up" temporarily with relatives, to the "chronically" homeless, mostly alcoholic, drug-addicted, mentally ill or all three -- the ones who sleep in the nooks and crannies.


Robinette spends most of his time with the hard-cores. A count earlier this year by Indianapolis' Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) put the "chronically homeless" population at 216.


They've lived outdoors for years, stopping at shelters only long enough for an occasional meal, often getting tanked, sometimes panhandling, sometimes dying.


Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jose Cuervo Christmas Cookies

Recipe courtesy of CulinaryGeek.net

1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup or brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup nuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila

Sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl, Check the Cuervo again, to be sure it is of the highest quality, Pour one level cup and drink.

Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.

Add one peastoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the Cuervo is still ok, try another cup just in case.

Turn off the mixerer thingy.

Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit off the floor.

Mix on the turner.

If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters just pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity.

Next, sift two cups of salt, or something. Who geeves A sheet. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.

Add one table.

Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink, whatever you can find.

Greash the oven.

Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.

Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the wishdasher.

Cherry Mistmas !

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Food Charities Struggle to Offer Healthy Options

By: Kevin Hardy

CHATTANOOGA (Dec 3, 2009) - When it comes to providing food to the hungry and poor, nutrition sometimes can be a low priority.

Workers with local food banks and community kitchens say providing wholesome, nutritious meals to their clients can be a struggle. With many charities relying heavily on donations, providing healthy food choices sometimes is not an option. And fresh fruits and vegetables almost always are more expensive than processed foods, providers say.

"Health is a significant factor in our menu planning, but the primary concern is eliminating hunger," said Jens Christensen, director of marketing at the Chattanooga Commmunity Kitchen, which will serve about 170,000 meals this year.

Mr. Christensen said employees try to provide balanced meals for their clients, but relying on donated ingredients creates real hurdles for cooks. The Community Kitchen's 2009 food budget is only $1,500, he said, so cash is reserved for essential items that don't come in as donations.

"This creates a great challenge in menu planning," he said. "Unlike most restaurants and businesses that serve food, we don't select a menu and then acquire the ingredients -- we choose our menu based on what we have."

Gary Paul, development director at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, said that organization notices a similar struggle with distributing the 9 million pounds of food donated annually.

"Basically, we're stewards of what's donated," he said. "The food, the money -- all that comes from the community. We're just stewards of those gifts."

The food bank collects donations of leftover prepared food from local Red Lobster, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Long John Silver's restaurants, Mr. Paul said. Though the foods oftentimes are high in calories and fat, the donations go a long way in feeding the hungry in the area, he said.

"We take what they give us," Mr. Paul said. "And we try to use it all, which we do."

Some groups say choosing their own ingredients makes meal planning easier.

At Providence Ministries in Dalton, Ga., cooks select most ingredients that go into the 500 meals a day served to community members in need. Director Roy Johnson said the program usually is able to provide balanced meals with several choices of entrees, vegetables and side items at each of its three daily meals.

"This is not a soup kitchen," he said. "We serve great meals down here."

Mr. Johnson said Providence has been blessed by a giving community and the ability to purchase many ingredients on its own. Still, he said, the clientele has increased dramatically throughout the recession.

"We're seeing people that we had never seen before, people who never had to apply for assistance for anything before," he said.

Also dealing with increased numbers of clients, the Salvation Army has started taking its own steps to ensure healthy food choices in the three meals it serves each day, spokeswoman Kimberly George said.

The organization recently hired a professional chef who picks nutritious ingredients and make wholesome meals, she said. The chef also will teach clients how to cook for themselves, she said.

The Salvation Army served more than 125,000 meals in its 2009 fiscal year, she said, and throughout the last year has seen an increase in clients in all of its social services.

"In some areas it's twice the amount we saw last year," she said.

The Salvation Army and the Chattanooga Area Food Bank recently installed on-site gardens to provide low-cost fresh vegetables and herbs to clients.

"Our hope is to encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle," Mr. Paul said. "And a lot of that is growing your own food."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving - The Day After


Class #56 came up with some great ideas for using all those Thanksgiving leftovers. Check them out in the Indianapolis Star.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Congratulations to Class #56!

Congratulations to Class #56 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program who graduated November 20, 2009.


Pictured above (Front row, left to right): Gina M. Powell, Angela L. Huggins-Gainer, Raymond O. Westmoreland Jr, Shawn N. Weaver; (Back row, left to right): Chef Carl Conway, David V. (Vinnie) Hyder, André K. Tompkins, and Tyrone L. Burris II.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet Potato Salad

By request, here's my recipe for sweet potato salad:


(Serves 12)


4 cups (hot) peeled, large diced and cooked sweet potatoes

2/3 cup red onion, small diced

½ cup celery, small diced

1 seedless cucumber (unpeeled), medium diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, medium diced

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, medium diced
¼ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped fine

½ cup toasted pecan halves, chopped

Kosher Salt, to taste

Fresh ground Black Pepper, to taste


For the Vinaigrette:


½ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon mild chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp Honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper


Combine vinegar, chili powder, garlic, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk ingredients until the salt is dissolved.

While still whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to form an emulsion.

Place hot potatoes, onion, and celery in a large mixing bowl and toss with half the dressing.

Cool, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to chill.

When ready to serve, add the cucumber, bell peppers, parsley, tarragon, and pecans and toss with the remaining dressing.

Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

In Afghanistan, This Is a Four Star Restaurant

Chowhall Chefs Include a Former Chef From Ritz Carlton

by KAREN RUSSO

Clouds of brown dust assault the soldiers' faces as they wait in line, but it's no deterrent. In just a few minutes they'll feel as close to home as they can get from half a world away.

It's lunchtime on "Soul Food Thursday" at the Containerized Kitchen for Task Force Saber on Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan.

Unlike the oversized cafeteria-style dining facilities - better known as D-FACS in the military's world of acronyms  this small "CK" looks like a caboose abandoned by its train in the middle of the desert.

Inside, servers load paper plates full of fried chicken, catfish, mac and cheese, collard greens and Hop Bean John salad. The American southern-style menu was created with a focus on the familiar.

"It's such a moral boost having food that tastes like food from home here," said Capt. Alicia Stahlberg, 26, from Fairfax, Va.

With the main base located several miles down the dirt road, food - until recently  was often frustratingly far away. Meals were missed if a pilot's shift ended at an odd hour. Now, soldiers eat steps from their work on their nearby airfield.

In the military, life almost revolves around food. Chowhall is one of the few places where soldiers can decompress for a few moments each day. So if the meal is lousy, it ruins just about the only moment they can forget about work. Ask any soldier they'll tell you their favorite D-FAC or provide a list of favorite spots to eat on base.

In Kandahar, which has only one CK, it is getting a reputation.

"We face a lot of challenges," said Michael Mosley, 37, Senior Food Operations Sergeant. "We're dealing with the elements, sanitization, lots of dust and parasites and pests." But so far, they are succeeding. "We try to give them something to look forward to in the work week and getting them through these hard times," said Mosley.

For Travis Burton, one of the chefs, cooking for the Army is drastically different than his previous career at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando, Fla. If it weren't for his student loan debts from culinary school, Burton says he would still be at the Ritz, where he had more creative freedom.

Food Can Make or Ruin the Day for a Soldier in Afghanistan

"We're limited to what you can do, to what you can acquire here. The food is pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-seasoned so you need to be careful what you do to it," Burton said. Too much seasoning with prepared foods can contradict and destroy the dishes.

Limitations aside, the chefs are still experimenting.

Sgt Earl Lendore, 26, cooks Caribbean-style dishes from his home in Grenada islands. For dinner, he is preparing curried chicken.

"A lot of people don't know a lot of Caribbean dishes. They'll look at it and think it's different. But then they'll eat it and love it!" he said.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tonic Ball and Gallery Approaches

Tonic Ball VIII will feature more than 30 of Central Indiana’s top rock, folk, jazz, funk, country, and pop artists celebrating the songs of Led Zeppelin at Radio Radio, 1119 E. Prospect St….and the songs of Bob Dylan right next door at the Fountain Square Theater—all beginning at 7p.m. on Friday, November 20th.

Last year, more than 1,000 people converged on Fountain Square to be part of the spectacle. This year, Tonic Ball and Tonic Gallery are going to be bigger and better than ever!

This year's artists:

Radio Radio (Led Zeppelin stage)
Bat Tattoo
The Misprintz
The Old Fair and Square Band
Ebenezer and the Hymnasters
The Last Domino
Frankie Camaro’s Atomic Bombay
Big Betty
Yoko Moment
We’re Not Squibnocket
Jennie DeVoe
The Cocaine Wolves
Vess Ruhtenberg
The Common
Healing Sixes
Bigger Than Elvis
Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes

Fountain Square Theater (Bob Dylan stage)
Cliff Snyder
Ladymoon
Sanuk
Coolidge
Jeff Byrd and the Wingmen
Jon Strahl Band
CW and the Working Class Trio
The Odyssey Favor
Luke Austin Daugherty Jam Band
Joel Henderson
Everest
Susan and the Desperate Seekers
Jon Martin and…
Shelby Kelley
Brian Deer and the Achievers
Tad Armstrong
Mardelay
The Deadbeats
Everything Now!
Otis Gibbs
The Vulgar Boatmen (w/special guest Jake Smith from the Mysteries of Life)


Note: Fountain Square Theater is an all-ages venue. Under-age tickets may be purchased separately. Call or email Ben Shine at 317.632.2664 X. 29, or ben@secondhelpings.org.
Tonic Gallery
AV Framing and Gallery
Friday, November 20
5:00 -9:00
free, all-ages, non-smoking


The Tonic Gallery features works by more than 50 of the city’s most renowned visual artists—all for sale and available for as little as $100. Tonic Gallery at AV Framing Gallery, Fountain Square, 1139 Shelby St., 5-9pm on November 20.
One of the city's most popular music and art events, Tonic Ball and Gallery, is scheduled for Nov. 20 at the Fountain Square Theater and next door at Radio Radio, 1119 E. Prospect St.

Tickets may be purchased online at secondhelpings.org

Friday, November 13, 2009

E-mail of the Year

Courtesy of my little brother:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:

"Let me see if I've got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.

You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.

You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.

You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.

You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card.

You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

You want me to do all this and then you tell me. . . I CAN'T PRAY?"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FDA Issues Updated Food Code

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it has released an updated FDA Food Code that's used as a model for state, city, county and tribal inspections.

The 2009 Food Code, officials said, is used to regulate more than 1 million restaurants, retail food stores and vending and food service operations across the United States. They said the code provides the basis for most licensing, inspection and enforcement activities, as well as serving as a model for food statutes, regulations and ordinances.

Officials said the 2009 edition of the Food Code is the seventh full edition published by the FDA. The previous full edition was released in 2005 with a supplement published in 2007.

Among the updates, cut leafy greens are now included among the foods that require time and temperature control for safety. And requirements are added to improve food worker awareness of food allergen concerns in the food service and retail setting.

Serving hamburgers and other ground meats in an undercooked form upon a consumer's request is no longer an option for items offered on a children's menu, officials said. And a new definition and criteria are added for the non-continuous cooking of foods comprised of raw animal products.

Several requirements related to the effective cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and surfaces are enhanced or clarified.

More information is available here.

Sweet Potatoes: Good and Great for You

As some of you may know, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite ingredients. Here's some useful information, courtesy of the New Orleans Times Picayune:

By Judy Walker
November 06, 2009, 2:30PM

Thanksgiving turns the spotlight on sweet potatoes, but they're good for you all year long, according to a new press release from LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

The Louisiana yam is an exceptional type of sweet potato sweet and flavorful, with a soft, moist flesh, Reames says. "Not only are yams delicious, they are a perfect choice for the health-conscious. They add valuable nutrients and color to any meal and can be enjoyed all year.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service, sweet potatoes are often called a “nutritional powerhouse” because they are very high in beta-carotene. The deep orange color of the sweet potato indicates it is rich in carotene, which becomes vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is needed for normal growth, development, reproduction, a healthy immune system and vision. One medium-size baked sweet potato provides about twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B-6, potassium and vitamin C when they’re baked in the skin, Reames says. They are low in sodium, fat and saturated fat. One medium-size baked sweet potato has only 103 calories.

When buying yams, choose well-shaped, firm potatoes with smooth, bright, uniformly colored skins. Avoid those with skin penetrated by holes or cuts, which cause decay.

In case you purchase sweet potatoes at a farmers market, Reams warns that freshly dug potatoes are uncured. They are good boiled, mashed, candied, fried and in many cooked dishes, but uncured potatoes do not bake successfully. They must be cured several weeks before they are ready for baking, stored in a cool, dry place where the temperature is about 55 or 60 degrees. Do not store them in the refrigerator. Chilling the vegetable will give it a hard core and an undesirable taste when it’s cooked.

Ideally, fresh sweet potatoes should be cooked within a week or two of being purchased, but may be stored for up to one month.

“Well-matured, carefully handled and properly cured potatoes will keep for several months if the temperature and storage conditions are ideal,” Reames says. “This usually is not possible, however, and potatoes spoil easily. You might wish to cook and freeze them to maintain their high quality.”

Some useful tips on cooking sweet potatoes here.

Just Because...

Seeing the picture of this lovely lady makes me feel good

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chili on the Circle

Last Friday, Kroger and Second Helpings served served a chili lunch on the southwest side of Monument Circle. This wasn't just any chili. The recipe, Smoky Steak and Chorizo Chili, made by Indiana State Police Sgt. Cedric Merritt and Second Helpings graduate Keith Mays, won a competition among public safety officials and members of the media.

The winners were presented the Golden Ladle trophy for the first-ever event. Second place went to SGT Matt Mount of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Indianapolis Star Editor Dennis Ryerson won third place.



Pictured above are SGT Merritt, Chef Conway, and Keith Mays.

With the authors' permission, here's the winning recipe:

Smoky Steak and Chorizo Chili
(A Protect and Burn Creation)

4 lbs. sirloin, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 pkgs. - Chili seasoning
3 lbs. chorizo sausage
3 medium onions, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
8 -10 dried chipotles (processed into medium fine powder)
6 medium dried red peppers (processed into medium fine powder)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dried cilantro
2 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
2 limes, juiced
2 Tbsp olive oil
6-8 dashes Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
2 – 29 oz cans dice tomatoes
2 – 29 oz cans tomato sauce
1 – 15 oz can black beans, drained
1 - 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 – 15 oz cans pinto beans, drained
1 – 20 oz can whole kernel corn, drained

In a large sauté, pan heat olive oil and then add steak and chili seasoning. Sauté meat until lightly browned. Add onions and bell peppers and sauté for another three minutes. Remove from heat and place meat in a stock pot, large Dutch oven, or slow cooker. Return the sauté pan to the heat and add the chorizo. Sauté for five minutes, or until lightly browned, and add to steak. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chef Jeff is Coming to Indy


Families and individuals of all ages are invited for an afternoon of inspiration and cultural entertainment when the African-American History Committee of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library presents the “Family Fall Fest” on Saturday, November 7 from 1 – 5 p.m. at Central Library in the Clowes Auditorium, 40 E. St. Clair Street.

Highlighting the afternoon will be a lecture (at 3 p.m.) by Chef Jeff Henderson, star chef on the Food Network and author of Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, From Cocaine to Foie Gras. While imprisoned for 10 years following conviction on cocaine dealing, Henderson discovered a culinary passion and became committed to turning his life around. He became Executive Chef of Café Bellagio in Las Vegas and started The Chef Jeff Project, in which he takes at-risk young adults and provides them the knowledge and skills to start a new life in the culinary arts.

Henderson’s lecture is intended to inspire, educate and motivate individuals to reach their potential by extolling the virtues of hard work, determination, and passion. Henderson will sign copies of his books at 4:30 p.m.

The afternoon also will feature the Slammin Rhymes Poetry Challenge and awards presentation (3:45 p.m.).

There will also be performances by the Mt. Olive Choir (1 p.m.), the Indy Steppers (an interactive dance troupe – 1:20 p.m.), the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (2 p.m.), Fighting Words (a poetry troupe that performs to hip-hop, soul and R&B music – 2:35 p.m.), and the Barry Dixon Reflections of Worship Choir (4:10 p.m.).

Book sales will be provided by Donna Stokes-Lucas.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mike and Andrea's Wedding

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Strong.

Here are pictures of the happy couple, as well as my crew who helped cater the wedding reception:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Michigan Chef Schools Packed Despite Lack of Jobs

STEVE PARDO
The Detroit News

Warren -- After 22 years as a contract employee at the General Motors Tech Center, Tim Jarrell found himself laid off and looking for another career about four years ago.

Instead of hunting for a new job in his field, Jarrell followed his passion.

He went back to school -- cooking school. He signed up for the two-year culinary program at Macomb Community College. Now, 46, he serves as a sous-chef, handling orders and food preparation at his alma mater.

"I had a personal interest in food," Jarrell said. "When I went into this field, I thought, 'You can go anywhere with it.' The program here is not just learning to stand behind a stove. It's a well-rounded education."

He's not alone in turning to culinary arts for a second career, even as the restaurant industry statewide simmers down due to the economy and chef jobs are tough to find. Cooking schools throughout the state are at capacity. Many have waiting lists of a year or longer. Instructors say the programs have never been more popular. Students of all ages jam the 60-odd schools in the state. New culinary schools have opened and existing ones are expanding.

The new Culinary Institute of Michigan in Muskegon began classes Sept. 28. The program, part of Baker College, saw enrollment swell to 500 from 300 students last year with the completion of the $11-million, three-story, 39,000-square-foot institute.

"We started the program in 1997, and we outgrew our old space," said Mary Ann Herbst, president of Baker College of Muskegon. "Students looking to come to culinary school knew we were opening, and they followed us." Officials predict enrollment will grow. The institute can accommodate up to 750 students a day, six days a week.

Locally, Dorsey Schools -- career training centers offering courses at six Metro Detroit locations -- opened a culinary arts school at its Roseville campus last year. The 12,000-square-foot building boasts three production kitchens, cooking equipment and classrooms and has about 175 students.

And at Macomb Community College's Culinary Institute, David Schneider, the department coordinator, said: "In every single program where enrollment starts at midnight, within an hour, everything is jammed. We've had students waiting for a year and half."

"The schools are absolutely packed," he added.

But as students flock to cooking schools, the restaurant industry struggles statewide.

Well-known eateries have changed menus, lowered prices or simply closed. This summer, for instance, Milford's Five Lakes Grill became Cinco Lagos, a Mexican-themed restaurant with lower prices. Less than a month ago, Seldom Blues in Detroit filed voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And on Sept. 29, Tribute Restaurant in Farmington Hills closed its doors.

Schneider said he has seen an uptick of students like Jarrell -- people without employment looking for a second career. A small percentage -- about 3-4 percent of new students -- are receiving tuition aid from the federal No Worker Left Behind act.

Schneider also has seen people who always have loved food, and now with time on their hands, are looking to sharpen their cooking skills.

The Food Network also has contributed to the crush of students. But it's a mixed blessing, Schneider said.

"It's misleading," he said. "This is leading to a rock star chef theory. They believe they're going to be the next big thing. It's sort of like playing the lottery."

Read the complete story here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On NPR - Alton Brown Celebrates Ten Years of "Good Eats"

Good Eats has become a staple on the Food Network, but it's not a typical cooking show. Alton Brown created the Peabody Award-winning program to be a mix of MacGyver, Mr. Wizard and History Rocks.

When Brown last appeared on Weekend Edition, he had just finished his motorcycle tour of America's road food. Now, as his show celebrates its 10th year on the air, he has a new book out this month. Good Eats: The Early Years is the first of a three-volume set.

Brown tells NPR's Liane Hansen that it was painful in some ways to look back on his show's early years. "When you're just starting out, you make a lot of mistakes," he says. "I think one of the whole points of waiting 10 years to do a book — which I always said I was going to wait, the show's got to make it a decade before I would do a book — is you get that space required for retrospection."

But he says it was also a "valuable, cathartic" experience. "You get to kind of pay for your sins — or at least make a few small repairs."

Brown launched the quirky program to break out of the staid cooking show format featuring people behind a cooktop. The camera chases Brown from scene to scene as he encounters oddball characters and explains the science behind baking, roasting and other kitchen mysteries. He credits '90s-era kids show Pee-wee's Playhouse as one of his inspirations. "Laughing brains are more absorbent," he says.

"I think a lot of food shows, especially when we started Good Eats back in the late '90s, they were still really about food. Good Eats isn't about food, it's about entertainment. If, however, we can virally infect you with knowledge or interest, then all the better."

But after 10 years and 200-plus episodes, Brown says he isn't really looking for new material anymore. "I think in the end there are only 20 or 30 tenets of basic cooking." Teachers he's talked to tell him the way to really get things to stick in peoples' minds is to master artful repetition. "It's going at perhaps the same issue from different angles, from different points of view, from different presentation styles, that really makes things sink in and become embedded," he says.

Read the rest of the story and listen to to the complete interview here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Digital Dirt" Can Haunt Your Job Search

Just like Vegas, what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. How that affects your job search is up to you.

Gone are the days when all you were concerned with was whether or not your résumé and cover letter were error-free.

Now, you've got bigger things to worry about -- like what kind of personal information is floating around online.

Job seekers should not only manage how they come across in person, but on the Web, too.

We often forget that everything you post online, from your Facebook profile to your Amazon book reviews, is out there for others to see and judge.

"Most employers nowadays hop on Google to search a name as a preliminary step, either before or right after the interview," says Monique Tatum, author of "Jumping Off the Curb and Into SEO Traffic." "A positive and strong online presence can play a tremendous part in the employer's first impression."

In 2009, 45 percent of employers used social networking sites to research candidates, according to a CareerBuilder survey, a 23 percent increase from last year.

Thirty-five percent of employers said that what they found caused them not to hire a candidate.

"Hiring someone is scary," says Zack Grossbart, a virtual team coach and author of "The One Minute Commute."

"You're paying them to represent your company, and your reputation affects theirs. No company wants a newspaper headline with their name in it because of an embarrassing employee."

Times have changed

Not only has the use of the Internet, social networking sites, blogs and other new media skyrocketed in recent years; all of these things have revolutionized the job search.

It used to be that if a hiring manager dug around online and couldn't find anything, it was a good thing. Today, however, if you have no online presence, it could be more of a career killer than if an employer found some digital dirt.

"If you have an established career and no online presence, it is a big red flag for employers," Grossbart says.

"Employers expect to find blogs, forum posts, LinkedIn profiles and many other sources of information about you. If you haven't been mentioned by other people in a professional context, employers will wonder why not."

Read the complete story here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cost-cutting Secrets of Chefs Who Cook for the Needy

LINDA Christianson knows that if she feeds them, they will come.

Christianson, a cook at Cathedral Kitchen, in Camden, works with a team that serves dinner and delivers meals to an average of 300 disadvantaged people every day. "Our numbers are definitely growing," she said, as more locals lose their jobs.

Then there are clients that fit into the category of the working poor - families who, despite multiple low-paying jobs, can't always afford to feed their kids. Cooking for a crowd on a budget is second nature to Christianson, a mission not all that different from the rest of us.

"Everybody is watching their pennies," she said.

Cooking from raw ingredients is key to a balanced diet and a balanced food budget, according to Christianson. "We don't use processed foods. People think they save time and money - but they don't. Take a grocery store rotisserie chicken, for example. You pay $6 and maybe get two cups of edible meat. Buy your own chicken - the parts you like - add a little spice and bake it. How long does that take? And you have enough for two meals, not just one."

While the kitchen does receive donated food - including steak ends from Capital Grill, which have been a popular addition to the menu in dishes such as stir fries and pepper steak - everything from salad dressing to soup is made from scratch. A new green building and kitchen, designed by local DAS Architects, provides more storage for bulk ingredients, another money saver.

Karen Talarico, the kitchen's executive director, recommends shopping at a place like Produce Junction, which offers rock bottom price on fresh vegetables. "Farmers' markets can be expensive," she said. "Everybody can't always buy local. But at least you can buy fresh. Asian supermarkets are another place that offers great deals on produce, meats and fish."

Chef Keith Lucas oversees the production of more than 65,000 meals a month for MANNA, which delivers to individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes or other life-threatening illnesses. Growing up as one of 11 in a single-parent, North Philly household, Lucas is a good man to know when it comes to stretching a buck.

"It starts with menu planning," said the chef. "Figure out what you want to make ahead of time so you can stretch leftovers into another meal. But be flexible with ingredients, depending on what's on sale."

Lucas is big on using every last scrap of product, often in dishes like fishcakes made from scratch, or tuna or salmon croquettes. "We don't cut any corners nutritionally or use any fillers, but we may use more celery or onion than chicken in a stew to stretch it.

"And we also make vegetarian meals with a protein source like beans, tofu and seitan," he said. "Whole grains are another way to stretch a meal without compromising nutrition."

MANNA meals average $1.28 each, due in part to donations and discounts afforded an acute-care facility. Lucas' challenge is making inexpensive food that is both nutritious and tasty.

"If people don't like how it tastes, it's not going to do them any good," he said.

Read the complete story here.

Scripps Networks to Launch Cooking Channel Next Year

BY SAM SCHECHNER

Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. said it plans to launch a cooking-focused TV channel next year, the company's chief executive, Ken Lowe, said in an interview Thursday.

The move comes as Scripps Networks is investing more heavily in food-related content. Earlier this week, the company announced a joint venture to launch international versions of its Food Network channel in Europe and other markets, as it looks to capitalize on a growing appetite for culinary TV programs.

The new network will be dubbed the Cooking Channel.

Read the complete story here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calorie Postings Don’t Change Habits, Study Finds

By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS

A study of New York City’s pioneering law on posting calories in restaurant chains suggests that when it comes to deciding what to order, people’s stomachs are more powerful than their brains.

The study, by several professors at New York University and Yale, tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken — in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity.

It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result.

But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008.

The findings, to be published Tuesday in the online version of the journal Health Affairs come amid the spreading popularity of calorie-counting proposals as a way to improve public health across the country.

Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pépin Sees World of Change for Chefs

By Gail Ciampa

Journal Food Editor

When culinary icon Jacques Pépin is honored at a gala Friday by the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival, it acknowledges a career that mirrors so many of the changes in the food world.

When he first arrived in New York from France he thought he’d stay a few years and then return home. He wasn’t seeking political or religious freedom or even a better world. He wanted to see the New World. But when he took his suitcase off the train from Montreal at Grand Central Station, he felt something special.

That was 50 years ago.

Back then, a professional cook was, while not at the bottom of the social strata, not very high, he said.

“Any good mother would want her daughter to marry a lawyer or a doctor. Anyone but a cook,” Pépin said.

Today chefs have rock star status and those who don’t, aspire to.

“Now I’m a genius,” he laughed.

When he came to America, he went to the grocery and found no shallots, no leeks, no different types of oil or vinegar and one kind of lettuce.

He couldn’t even find fresh mushrooms. He asked where they were and a clerk sent him to an aisle with cans on the shelf. He had to go to a specialty store to get a white button mushroom.

Today, where selection and food are concerned, the world is your oyster and you can find those anywhere, too.

Read the rest of the story here.

What Are You Craving...and WHY?

Research up in the air over whether there is a direct connection between cravings and nutritional deficiencies

It’s 4:27, and you suddenly want Cheez-Its but you don’t know why. Many a craver has puzzled over why they want the foods they suddenly can’t live without. While many studies have been done to discover why we crave the things we do, most have had inconclusive results.

“The reason for cravings is really unknown and poorly understood,” says registered dietician and nutrition professor at Boston University, Joan Salge Blake. “Some may have biological underpinnings, [or are tied to] behavioral habits.”

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday To Pearl Bistro

Another of my favorite restaurants is the Pearl Bistro, located at 1475 West 86th Street, just west of Ditch Road. Chef and owner Susan Eichholtz and her staff will be serving a special wine dinner in celebration of their one year anniversary on Wednesday, September 23rd.

Chef Susan has been a supporter of Second Helpings since even BEFORE she opened Pearl Bistro. One of her first staff hires was Chef Mia Nolcox, a rising culinary star who, at the time, was a student in the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program. Chef Susan and Chef Mia have participated in two of our major events this year, and have always wowed and delighted the crowds with their outstanding food offerings.

During the day, Pearl is a casual café, offering healthy food choices, particularly during lunch hour. In the evening, Pearl transforms into an eclectic bistro, providing a relaxing and unique dining experience with healthy choices and good flavor in mind.

I took Mama Chef there for dinner a couple of Saturday nights ago, and it was all I could do to get her to leave. We both had the Pork Chop with cheese grits and the sauteed spinach. The pork was cooked perfectly, and the pan sauce that accompanied it was to die for. Unfortunately, we did both have one complaint - there just wasn't enough spinach on the plate.

For dessert, Mama had the fruit cobbler, and I had the chocolate mocha cake. Both were delicious, but the highlight for us was the coffee. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Pearl Bistro gets its coffee from another one of my favorite places, Harvest Cafe Coffee Company.

Owner Dave Darga and his company pride themselves on roasting every batch to order for each customer. You can read about their philosophy and learn about their products on their website.

One of my other favorites on the menu at Pearl Bistro is the Pasta Rustica - penne pasta in a rich, meaty tomato sauce with Italian sausage. Another not-to-be-missed item is Mia's Tilapia - breaded and accompanied by grilled veggies and pineapple.

The desserts are first rate and always prepared in house and they have small but very inclusive wine list, as well as beers. For first rate food that's healthy and won't bust your budget, I highly, highly recommend Pearl Bistro. When you go, tell 'em I sent you.

Pictured Above: Pearl Bistro's Chocolate Mocha Cake

Thursday, September 10, 2009

El Sol De Tala

Check out the website of my favorite Mexican restaurant. Not only is the food fantastic and AUTHENTIC, Javier and his family are great supporters of Second Helpings.

Mama Chef loved the place. She even ate the rice!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why Don't Employers Call You Back?

(This is great advice, BUT, whatever you do, don't give up hope. I didn't get a call back the first time I applied for my job at Second Helpings.)

By Anthony Balderrama
CareerBuilder.com writer

Is there any worse confidence killer than rejection?

I think it goes back to childhood, when you want a new bike for your birthday but you end up getting a pack of tube socks instead. You immediately wonder if you did something wrong and that's why you didn't get what you wanted.

Go forward a few years when you end up taking your cousin to the prom because everyone else turned you down. And the college years? Basically a parade of rejection that feels like an endless line of Rockette kicks to your confidence.

Or maybe that was just my experience.

Still, that same game of "Is it me or them?" continues well into adulthood as you begin searching for a job. You make a list of your best qualities, send them to employers, get dressed up and try to woo them in an interview. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. The phone never rings.

Job seekers want to know why they can seemingly do everything right, and yet, still they don't hear back from employers. We're not talking about getting turned down for the job -- we're talking about not even hearing a "Sorry, but the position has been filled." So we went to the source to find out.

Submitting the application

For a job seeker, the application process is full of anxiety and excitement. When you're looking for a job, each available position represents a possible new beginning.

Before you've submitted an application, you've already daydreamed about your first day on the job. The problem is that to some employers, you're just one in a dozen. Or in some cases, one in 500.

"In the current market, if you post a job, you will get buried with résumés," says Matthew McMahon, partner at staffing firm McMahon Partners LLC. "Maybe 5 percent are in the ballpark."

This means plenty of hiring managers spend their time reading irrelevant applications that don't help them find the right candidate. As a result, they have less time for you. "You simply don't have time to respond to [all applicants]."

To many job seekers this attitude may sound cold and impersonal. After all, behind each of these applications is a person waiting for a return call. McMahon cannot possibly respond to each one individually, but he does take the time to reach out to applicants who show promise.

"If somebody is close, but slightly off target, I will usually take the time to give them a call, learn about what they are looking for, tell them about the sort of roles I fill, and keep the notes for future use," he says.

How about the ones who miss the mark completely?

"If the person isn't even close (or has not read the description), I don't bother spending the time because they are obviously applying for everything," he says. Take that as further proof that throwing your application at every open position and hoping to have some success is not the way to conduct a job search.

Read the rest of the story here.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Harvest A Great Success






Read Cathy Kightlinger's report on THE wine and food event of the year here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Oysters Rockefeller

This is the recipe for the oysters we served at Harvest. Since there have been so many requests for the recipe I'm posting it here. This is as close to the taste of the original as I've ever had. The secret is the Pernod. Good luck finding that in Indy.



4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 shallots, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 Tablespoons Pernod
Kosher salt, to taste

Black Pepper, to taste
Tabasco red pepper sauce, a dash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
2 dozen oysters, on the half shell
Rock salt
Lemon wedges, for garnish


Preheat oven to 450º F. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.

Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic-infused butter and set aside. To the remaining butter in the pan, add the shallots and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts, about three minutes. Deglaze the pan with Pernod and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a dash of Tabasco sauce and allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes.


To the bread crumbs, add the olive oil, Parmesan and parsley. Spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture on each oyster, followed by a spoonful of the bread crumb mixture.


Sprinkle a baking pan with rock salt and arrange the oysters in the salt to steady them. Bake in a preheated 450º F oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.

Serve with lemon wedges and Tabasco sauce.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Homeless People Learn to Feed Others as Chefs

By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

Chef Cecil Morris Jr., 46, of Mobile, Ala., knows what it's like to be on both sides of the soup kitchen line.

He was homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol in 1992 when he entered the local Salvation Army's adult rehab center.

After a year in the program, Morris asked the chef in charge of the kitchen to teach him how to cook. That chef gave him the skills he uses today as the culinary arts director at the Salvation Army in his community, which serves more than 400 meals daily.

Morris now teaches other unemployed people his trade. "I believe this is my calling," he says. "I believe I was placed here for a reason. I'm a light to guys who knew me from the street. They see me now, and they see how far I've come."

Across the country, many skilled chefs at homeless shelters and social-service kitchens are offering free culinary arts courses to the homeless, unemployed and underemployed. Most of the chefs teach students the ABCs of working in a professional kitchen — everything from knife skills to sanitation to making soups and sauces. The goal: to help lift people out of poverty and get them back on their feet.

Although there is no official tally on the number of trained chefs working full-time to serve the needy, there may be as many as 500, and an increasing number of them are offering culinary training to unemployed and underemployed clients, says chef Jeff Bacon, 42, of Winston-Salem, N.C. He is on the board of directors for the American Culinary Federation, an organization of professional chefs and cooks.

Sometimes the chefs are volunteers who become employees, and some chefs are "rebounding" from their own problems and want to give back, Bacon says. That's what happened to him.

Bacon spent three years in prison for drug-related offenses, then turned his life around and earned a bachelor's degree in nutrition and food service management. He's now executive chef of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina. He's in charge of the preparation of 14,000 meals a month for various shelters and non-profit agencies and teaches a 10-week free culinary arts course.

"God saved me for a reason from the mess I got into, and I would be greatly remiss if I didn't give that back to folks," he says.

He says placing his students in the food service industry isn't always easy because many of them have criminal records and poor work history. At the end of their first year in their cooking jobs, about 65% are still employed, which he says is a commendable number.

It wouldn't be possible to do all this if it were merely a matter of "human function," he says. "It's divine intervention, every class."

Nationwide, other professional chefs are teaching cooking skills to the unemployed:

•Chef Marianne Ali, 52, a former heroin addict, is the director of culinary job training for D.C. Central Kitchen in Washington, one of the first community kitchens to offer culinary classes. She and her staff teach a 12-week course four times a year. About 500 students have completed the program over the past 16 years.

Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Congratulations To Class #55


Congratulations to Class #55 of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program, who graduated August 21, 2009. Pictured above (Front Row, Left to Right): Charlene Saunders, Barbara Lopez, Virginia Mason (a.k.a. "Mama Chef"), and Adell Rudolph. (Back Row): Chef Conway, Nashira Johnson, Trent Riegle, James Washington, Cornelius Cooper, and Charles Gray.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Alice Waters Awarded French Legion of Honor

She's won a James Beard Award and a Bon Appetit lifetime achievement award and has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame. But for Alice Waters, recognition by the French Legion of Honor was really special.

"I learned everything in France," the Chez Panisse chef-restaurateur said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "An aesthetic. The way I serve a meal. The way I think about food. Period."

Waters received official notice from the Embassy on Tuesday. As "Chevalier," she joins a string of high-profile celebrities in the ultimate French insiders' club; "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, singer Celine Dion and fashion designer John Galliano are members. But there are not many chefs, let alone American ones. That's because chefs and farmers of distinction are generally awarded the merit agricole, said Christophe Musitelli, the French cultural attaché in San Francisco. The last celebrity chef inducted was Julia Child in 1991, he said.

"Alice has brought to this country a way to think about cuisine," Musitelli said. "It's not only the cooking but the philosophy, the emphasis on organic, the support of Slow Food. For us, she's a very important figure."

Oh. And Chez Panisse is the destination for local French foodies.

The date and location of the induction ceremony has not yet been decided, Waters said: "They said we could do it in San Francisco or France. And I thought, 'Oh, France! That would be nice.' "

-- Jane Black

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When The Economy Gets Tough, The Tough Get Cooking

Cutting Costs at Culinary School

By DAWN FALLIK

When Hubert Sawyers signed up for a cooking class last June, he thought it would help make for great date nights for him and his new wife.

With the economy in recession, people are turning to the kitchen to keep costs down. WSJ's Dawn Fallik visits the Culinary Institute of America in New York, where would-be chefs learn everything from knife skills to sauteing at a beginners cooking class.
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Then he got laid off from his job as an executive assistant at a real estate appraisal company. The $58-a-person "Sautéed Salmon" class all of a sudden seemed like an unnecessary splurge for the 28-year-old, whose cooking skills were mostly limited to grilling. But the tutorial turned out to be a long-term money saver: The couple went from eating out at a restaurant four times a week to once a week, utilizing Mr. Sawyer's newfound cooking skills as he sought to find a job.

"My sauté game is definitely on now," says Mr. Sawyers, who lives in Royal Oak, Mich. "We save between $25 and $50 a week. The class made cooking at home a lot easier."

Nationwide, restaurant diners and take-out folks are turning to the home kitchen, hoping to cut costs and save money during the downturn. But many, like Mr. Sawyers, need some help discerning a simmer from a sauté.

At the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., administrators increased their five-day, $2,095 "Basic Training" boot camp to 14 classes a year, up from 10 three years ago. The Whole Foods in the Soho neighborhood of New York City saw enrollment in the store's cooking classes increase 46% between 2009 and 2008, says a company spokeswoman. The number of classes at that store -- ranging in price from free to $75 -- rose as well, to 247 in 2009 from 184 in 2008. Whole Foods does not collect nationwide data on its stores's cooking classes, but a spokeswoman says there's been an overall rise in interest.

The Kitchen Conservatory in Clayton, a suburb of St. Louis, Mo., is on pace to teach 8,000 students this year, a 6% increase in two years, says owner Anne Cori, noting that many of those new students are beginner cooks.

"People take these classes as a reaction to the recession,"says Culinary Institute spokesman Jay Blotcher. "The boot camps help people make better food shopping choices and encourage them to prepare meals more often at home."

Adds Ms. Cori: "Years ago, our classes were all older women. Now we're getting a lot of young male professionals. There's a change in the type of people interested in cooking."

Chefs and culinary teachers are taking note and adapting their classes to address cost concerns by offering grocery-shopping advice and suggestions on reusing leftovers.

In April, the Kitchen Conservatory launched the "Beef Up Your Budget" class, giving hands-on instruction for making short ribs, brisket and sirloin steak – all cheaper cuts of meat. The class sold out within days. This fall, a new "Frugal Fish" class is on the menu, which will teach students how to make low-cost seafood dishes such as tuna burgers.

Students say cooking classes are a good place to ask rudimentary questions without judgment from family, friends or the foodie standing next to them at the farmer's market. And they say it's worth spending money for a class if it means they can save money by eating at home.

"I'm trying to cut back on the money we spend going to restaurants," says Sigrid Miller Pollin, an architect from Amherst, Mass., who took a two-day, $850 CIA boot camp in June.

She and her husband used to eat out two or three times a week and would spend more than $40 each outing. They hoped the class would help them use their vegetable garden more and order out less.

Ellen and Jeremy Amato took the Conservatory's "Pizza on the Grill" class last May to learn how to better utilize their groceries and not be as wasteful. Much of the food they would buy ended up shoved behind take-out containers and then thrown out, says Ms. Amato.

Although Ms. Amato, 28, was a "dabbler" cook, her husband's idea of a fine meal was a fried bologna sandwich, she says.

"My husband was definitely overwhelmed," she says. "We were chopping onions and he'd never diced an onion before."

Now they spent $50 a week ordering out, instead of $150, she says. They joined a community produce-delivery program, and make most of their meals at home. Ms. Amato does most of the cooking, but her husband, 32, will help with the preparation.

"We didn't really know where to start," she says.