Jeni Podrebarac’s family is a foodie foursome. She and husband Pierre (Perry) have been married for 17 years and have two sons: Pierre, 12; and Jacob, 11, and all are interested in, “What’s for dinner?” as they tuck in nightly around their family table.
Ten years ago, Jeni left a creative services and community relations position to stay home and raise her boys in the family’s Fairway home.
She enjoys combining good food and goodwill by donating Mother/Daughter Tea Parties for charity and hosting tea luncheons for family and friends’ birthdays on the back patio.
Q: You claim to be a family of foodies. What does that mean to you?
A: We are foodies in the sense that food is the center of our daily lives. We love to eat and also eat good food that is good for you. In fact, it’s always a question my husband asks me every day: “What are we fixing for dinner?” While our meals may not be the most gourmet, we prefer very simple yet healthy meals that are easy and not time-consuming to prepare. I am always in search of delicious, healthy recipes, and often I will make my own version of a recipe.
Q: Did you tweak this cookie recipe, too?
A: I have a huge sweet tooth and love to bake, learning over time not to fight it but find ways to make desserts healthier. Cookies are my biggest weakness, and I have many family recipes, but I am now incorporating new versions that include healthier ingredients, such as oats, fruit, dark chocolate and nuts. I always cut back on the amount of sugar for which the recipe calls and have recently been experimenting by baking with coconut oil.
Here is my recipe for my newest favorite version of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. A couple of tips: Cookies will be very flat and crumbly if you don’t refrigerate the dough before baking. And take cookies out of the oven when they look slightly underbaked in the middle, because they will harden after cooling. The batch doesn’t make very many cookies, and they disappear quickly.
Q: What other kinds of foods disappear quickly in your home?
A: Healthy snacks are also very important to us. I have found smoothies can be a good solution, especially when they incorporate healthy ingredients that Jacob normally won’t eat, such as kale and spinach. Just recently, Pierre was researching nutrition for a school project and decided he wanted us to make a “smoothie of the month,” so he found recipes and helps me make them.
Pierre has been fascinated with geography, different cultures and their foods since he was very young. One year for my birthday he researched different recipes from different countries, and printed recipes from the countries he selected and made me a world cookbook. Over time we have been preparing these recipes together, and you can imagine how special this gift is to me.
Q: It seems as though your whole family is invested in the foods you eat.
A: We are very fortunate in the fact that we are able to sit down at the dinner table and eat together as a family and make it a priority to be together. My husband loves to grill, and I have been teaching our boys how to cook and bake. So most nights Perry grills, and I prepare all the sides with assistance from our boys when their schedule allows.
My husband is a hunter and fisherman, so we eat a lot of wild game, such as venison, elk, turkey and crappie fish. Perry has an amazing command of the grill and always seasons the meat to perfection. All of our meals consist of a protein, vegetable, healthy starch — such as sweet potato or quinoa — and fresh fruit.
Everyone has favorite family recipes that come from parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. My mother, Kay Cardin, and both of my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and bakers. I am very thankful to have inherited their love for baking and cooking, and I am working toward passing this life skill on to my boys.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. Sen email to her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen, 1-inch cookies
3/4 cup finely ground oatmeal or oat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, slightly cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
In a large mixing bowl, whisk oat flour, old-fashioned oats, quick oats, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, cream coconut oil and brown sugar together using an electric mixer, fit with a paddle attachment. Beat in egg and vanilla extract until well combined.
With mixer set on lowest setting, slowly pour in dry ingredients until a dough forms. Stir in chocolate chips.
Transfer dough into a plastic container and cover tightly with lid. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow dough to become firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1-teaspoon scoop, place 12, 1- to 1 1/2 -inch balls of dough onto each prepared baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are very lightly browned around edges.
Allow cookies to cool a few minutes on baking sheets before removing onto a wire cooling rack. When completely cooled, store in an airtight container
Per cookie: 111 calories (55 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 67 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.