Senior Living Never Tasted So Good

Fox Knoll and Unidine partner to bring seniors a resort-style atmosphere.

“This isn’t your great-grandma’s retirement home – things are changing in the senior living market from housing options to dining options.

“Today’s seniors are looking for a resort-style atmosphere,” says Ryan Carney, executive directors for Presence Fox Knoll, a senior living community in Aurora. “The senior population is predicted to triple by 2020, and they want a safe environment that is less institutional.”

To meet that demand, Presence Fox Knoll brought in Unidine, a company that specializes in food services for senior living communities. Chef Steven Kriekard, 32, is the district manager with Unidine for Presence Health Ministries and has been working with Fox Knoll staff since February.

“We are very focused on fresh food with from-scratch cooking,” he explains. “We fillet out our salmon, bread our own chicken fingers, and use fresh meats, dairy and produce.”

By creating all of their own soups, sauces and dressings in their kitchens, Kriekard says it is easier to make selections healthier by controlling salt, fat and other ingredients.

“The level of education for people in senior living is very high today,” Kriekard says. “They won’t tolerate low-quality food, and they want restaurant-quality service. Food is a big part of their day, and they want a meal they can look forward to.”

The tables at Fox Knoll are set with linens and meals are served in courses.

To serve quality food, Kriekard says there must be trained culinarians in the kitchen. “We hire more Culinary Institute of America graduates than any other industry,” he says.

Although the preparation staff cost is higher, the cost of fresh, unprocessed ingredients is less.

“Creating from scratch with trained staff is the way food should be prepared,” he says simply.

Kriekard explains that appearance is an important factor.

“As a culture, we eat first with our eyes,” he says.

Attention to presentation is given even to therapeutic meals.

“Our puree program is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

The pureed servings are carefully molded and then piped with details so that they look just like actual food.

It is a lot like cake decorating,” Kriekard says. “We can make pureed cantaloupe that still looks like cantaloupe.”

As he plans meals for residents, Kriekard tries to listen to the requests. He finds that many people crave comfort foods like meatloaf once in a while.

“But our goal is still to make it the best meatloaf we can,” he notes.

In addition to filling requests, Kriekard tries to expand the residents’ palates through an “Oh, So Good” program. These are heart-healthy, low-cholesterol options that many are not familiar with but still might enjoy. For example, the rice might be brown instead of white. Salmon seasoned with lemon and ginger might entice someone who previously never cared for seafood.

“We put extra effort into these items so that people may be willing to try a new and healthy meal,” he says.

Another interesting addition to Fox Knoll are hydration stations in several locations. The stations contain large-glass serving containers filled with water that is infused with mild flavors to make even a glass of water into a gourmet offering. Each day the water has a different flavor that comes from the visible additions of herbs and fruit. A recent combination was strawberries and fennel that provided a subtle berry sweet and licorice richness to the water.

Kriekard shares the recipes for one of his “Oh So Good” offerings. He hopes to entice the community into eating healthier.

His Recipe

Ginger Lemon Salmon with Fried Brown Rice
1-1/3 tablespoons chicken stock
4-5/8 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1-3/8 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pound salmon fillet
1 cup water
3/8 cup brown rice
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 of a small yellow onion
1 small carrot
2-1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 egg
3/8 cup fresh peas
3/8 cup sliced green onions

Whisk together chicken stock, 1-5/8 teaspoons soy sauce and 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil. Spray nonstick skillet with vegetable oil spray and heat over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry about 15 seconds or until fragrant. Add soy sauce mixture and simmer five minutes. Chill to room temperature.

Add lemon zest and marinate salmon in the mixture for one to two hours. While salmon is marinating, finely chop onion and carrot.

Add salt and rice to water and bring to a boil. Simmer brown rice until al dente, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool.

Sauté onion and carrot in remaining 1-1/4 teaspoons sesame oil until tender. Add cooked rice, remaining 3 teaspoons soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. To finish rice, beat egg and add to cooked rice mixture. Add peas. Cook until egg is scrambled and mixture is warm.

Remove salmon from marinade and bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Serve rice and salmon together.


Written by Judy Buchenot for Sun-times Media, May 21, 2014

View the original article at The Beacon News.