July 2, 2015 --- Leave a Comment
Feeding people is what I do. At home, in the Berghoff Restaurant, at various catering events and many places in between. Until last week, one group of people I had yet to feed was student athletes.
Both my daughters are rowers, which means many of our weekends are spent cheering them on at regattas. Packing gluten-free food options for Sarah and educating the parents that volunteer their time as ‘team chefs’ on cooking gluten-free has become a regular habit. Luckily over the years Sarah has become a wonderful self-advocate and learned to be prepared (which, on a separate note, is one of the reasons I feel confident about her transition to college in the Fall – more on that to come later).
Last week Sarah’s team, Chicago Rowing Foundation competed in the USRowing Youth National Championships in Sarasota, FL. I decided it was my turn (plus I wanted a front row seat) to be a parent chaperone. And so 35 kids, two coaches, a few parents and myself set out on the adventure. I, of course, took on the role of feeding the team during the four days, because why not accept the challenge – it’s what I do, right?
Most events and memorable experiences are centered around food. It’s what guests at an event tend to remember, why people choose where to dine, and often times how people plan a destination for vacation. The difference with this event was that the food was the fuel these athletes would need in order to perform at one of the most memorable regattas of their athletic career. And it was my job to provide that fuel. With that knowledge in hand, it was time to get ready. And for anyone who might find themselves with the job of cooking for athletes, my game plan below might be helpful.
Step #1 – Plan your meals. Depending on the team’s schedules (race times, weigh-ins, practices, etc.), each meal needed to be thought out. Would breakfast need to be a grab-and-go, would lunch be served on-site and would dinner be in the condo or catered on the beach by a local restaurant? All questions to ask the coaches and parents that help coordinate the trip.
Step #2 – Create the grocery lists. After researching my grocery options in Sarasota, I broke my master list into three sub lists of my favorite grocery stores: Costco, Publix, and Trader Joe’s. There was of course a budget to keep in mind. Also in an effort to avoid cross contamination and because it’s just second nature to me, I chose to only shop and cook gluten-free (ask me later if anyone even noticed :)).
Step #3 – Shop and prepare. After dropping the team off in our 15 passenger vans, I switched to a small rental car and hit the grocery stores. Following my lists, I picked up all our grocery needs and returned to the condo. After unpacking I began to prep any menu items possible. Knowing that my time was split between watching the races and cooking, and that the girls would be hungry as soon as they arrived home, I tried to be efficient as possible. This meant marinating turkey breasts for the next day, preparing any salads I could (gluten-free pasta salad, green bean salads, dressings, etc.)
Step #4 – Cook and enjoy! Our menus varied of course but I think the team’s favorite meal was my Plank Salmon with Red Pepper Aioli and Grilled Asparagus. The key to our menus was lean proteins, vegetables and fruit. Basically anything that provided fuel without weighing them down.
With almost 40 people it’s pretty hard for food to go to waste. Of course towards the end of the trip I was reusing leftovers in varying ways and packed a cooler with any leftovers we could take on the plane ride home. If I learned one lesson about feeding athletes, it’s that food is key to their success. As I mentioned, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables are the fuel that keeps them going. Their portion size is typically a bit more than your average guest, but the level of gratitude higher. I’d say I completed my challenge and added a new category to my resume.
The best part of the experience: In the end Sarah and her team’s years of hard work paid off, placing 7th in the country!
June 16, 2015 --- Leave a Comment
Sarah is sensitive to almost all dairy, some forms more than others. She can tolerate aged Cheddar and Parmesan, but desserts made with milk products are not worth the risk. Often when I serve gluten-free desserts at home, I accompany them with a simple sauce. Of course you can always drizzle on some Homemade Gluten-Free […]
June 10, 2015 --- Leave a Comment
The lemon cheesecake I made for Easter uses cream cheese and is not the best dessert for Sarah, who is sensitive to dairy. So as a treat I developed a recipe for a completely dairy-free cheesecake using a readily available nondairy product: Better than Cream Cheese. I shared the recipe with a friend who did […]
June 4, 2015 --- Leave a Comment
One of my best gluten-free meatless recipes is for black beans and rice in the Cuban style. It has protein from the beans, tons of flavor from the seasonings and extra nutrition from brown instead of white rice. It is a dish I serve often at home and I knew that Sarah was going to […]
May 28, 2015 --- 2 Comments
I served this remarkably simple pasta chicken salad on Memorial Day to rave reviews from family and friends. It is one of those recipes where the result surpasses the sum of its parts. Flavorful, full of interesting texture and made from pantry staples, it will be one of the recipes I put in Sarah’s college […]
May 21, 2015 --- Leave a Comment
The recipe for pasta salad in Cooking for Your Gluten Free Teen (page 101) works like a charm, but it requires a certain amount of work in preparation. Most of the labor involves keeping the ingredients dry, because wet ingredients spell disaster for refrigerated pasta salads. For the summer months ahead I developed an easier […]