All posts by dianas16_wp

Kitchen Tip: Simplify with Services

I have been reading a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The basic principle is that when we discard items in our home that no longer bring us joy, we are left with ONLY those things that represent joy for us. Can you imagine? Being completely surrounded by joy all the time?!

Now what if we were to do this same exercise with our daily actions? Make a list of everything you do during the day. For each action, indicate whether it brings you joy or not. If it doesn’t bring you joy, can it be outsourced? Is meal prep, cooking or grocery shopping on this No Joy list? The good news: there are plenty of services that you can hire to help bring back the joy in dinner.

Allow me to introduce you to your new best friends…..

Grocery delivery services – If you enjoy cooking or like having the greatest control over the ingredients in your meals, grocery delivery is a great service for you. My local favorite is Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks because of their high quality products and excellent service. Other popular options include: PeaPod, Instacart, and perhaps
even Task Rabbit if you have specialty or other errands you want handled at the same time.

Meal Planning services – When I first started dreaming up this newsletter, I thought I might start my own business as a meal planning service or app. When I started researching the topic, I discovered that there were tons of good options in this arena. I found this lifehacker blog post to have good reviews of various services. Fresh20 looks particularly appealing to me.

Meal Assembly Kitchens – Pre portion and prep your meals once a month at a Meal Assembly Kitchen and streamline your grocery shopping, meal planning, prep time and clean up! Quality and variety varies, but definitely worth a look, particularly for occasional use. Two recommended options: Let’s Dish (Baltimore), Dream Dinners (Chicago).

Meal Kit Services – Meal Kit Services are what you get if Meal Planning and Grocery Delivery Services could have a baby. The ingredients for your weekly meals arrive at your door pre portioned and ready to go, you just take it to the finish line by completing the final cooking or assembly step. If you consider paying for one service (meal kit) rather than three (meal plan, grocery delivery and prep time), this might be the best value. Here is a lifehacker review of some popular options (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Plated).

Meal Delivery services – Not interested in doing any of the work in the kitchen? or putting in long hours at the office? Meal Delivery may be the service for you. A favored local option is Factor75 and a reasonable national option is Magic Ktichen.

Personal Chef services – Just like it sounds, a personal chef is someone that either drops off fully cooked meals for you or cooks in your own home. Their services can be reasonably priced, so do not discount this option without doing a little research. You might
be surprised what you find!

Meal Planning Coach – Overwhelmed by the options? Not sure where to start? Meet with a meal planning coach or consultant one-on-one to put together an action plan to better execute your meals. When I meet with clients for this service, we review all aspects of the process to make it more efficient and infuse it with greater joy! Email me ( to set up your FREE phone consultation.



Recipe: Loaded Vegetable Spring Quiche

embracing dinner salad

Quiche is a staple at our house. I make it at least once
per month. I will often make 2 at a time, serving one and
freezing the other. I like to vary the ingredients and will
generally use whatever veggies I have on hand. This
week I made the recipe below, and added roasted red
pepper for color. I served with a Dandelion Greens salad
(from the backyard!!) and roasted potatoes. Try it and let
me know what you think!


1 bunch ramps, cleaned and sliced (reserve 1/4 cup of the green parts for garnish)
2 cloves of black garlic
1 packets of buna-shimeji mushrooms (or any mushrooms you fancy will do)

5 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 cup frozen peas

Make your own crust (I like to make an Oat-based crust, super easy)  or pull out prepared crust.  Heat olive oil (or butter) in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ramps and sauté for two minutes.  Next, add in the garlic, mushrooms, frozen peas, salt, and pepper.  Sauté
for 5 or so minutes or until everything has softened.  Set aside.
Beat together the eggs and milk.  Pour the vegetable mixture into prepared crust and then pour egg mixture over it all.  Cook for 30 minutes or until the eggs have set and there are a few brown spots on top. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Season with more salt and pepper and top with ramp slices. Serve warm.

Kitchen Tip: Cook Less, Make More

1 DOUBLE BATCH / FREEZE METHOD – Double your recipe and freeze half. Keep a list of what you have added to your freezer so that you don’t forget about that Lentil Soup you made a few weeks back. If you abide by this every week, you’ll have one night when dinner is already made the minute you hit the door. Think hearty soups and casseroles. Our favorites: Gypsy Soup, White Bean Enchiladas

2 DOUBLE BATCH / EAT ALL WEEK METHOD – Double your recipe and serve throughout the week for lunches and / or one reserve for one night of leftovers. Soups and casseroles also work well here, but even better for things that don’t freeze well, like previously frozen meats, salads, or sandwiches. We like: Coconut Chicken with Rice, Vegetable Paella

3 GRAINS – Cook up a large amount of rice or quinoa and use throughout the week: as a side dish next to protein, mixed with veggies and greens for a salad, stir fried with scrambled eggs, or serve it warm with honey, almonds, chia and pumpkin seeds for breakfast.

4 PROTEIN BOOST – Grill or bake a larger amount of meat or other protein and serve for dinner as is, then dice or shred leftovers for salad, sandwiches or tacos.

5 SAMPLE QUANTITY BOOST SCHEDULE – Reorder the cooking days as desired, but here’s one way you might piece together all of the strategies at once! 3 days of cooking to cover a week of meals. Brilliant!
Day 1: (COOK) Double batch something and eat half
Day 2: Freezer meal from a prior week
Day 3: (COOK) Double Protein and Grain servings, eat half, reserve half
Day 4: Eat other half of Day 1 dinner
Day 5: Green Salad/Taco/Sandwich with leftover Protein and/or Grain from Day 3
Day 6: (COOK) Double batch and freeze half
Day 7: Leftovers

Moroccan Chickpea Chili

1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in cumin and next 7 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1 1/2 cups water, tomato paste, chickpeas, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in cilantro and juice. Make it hearty and serve over quinoa or rice.

Kitchen Tip: Engage the Kids

When there are children around, the stress quotient while cooking seems to skyrocket for me. Between the whining, fighting and boredom complaints, it is by far my least favorite part of the day. There are days, however, when I strike brilliance and intentionally set the children up with an activity to engage them while I cook. Here are some favorites. I hope that you find one or two that strike a chord with you!

1. The RAINBOW Game – The basic premise of this game is you are sending the children off on a treasure hunt throughout the house to find colored objects in order of the rainbow. I usually instruct them individually, ‘Go find me something Red’. Then upon successful completion, ‘Go find me something Orange’, etc. For an older child, you might ask for more than one object of each color. Or ask them to color the cups of an empty egg carton to collect small objects that match the colors and see what color ‘wins’. I use this game a lot — good for those times when the kids need to be engaged, even when we’re not at home (playing it in nature is particularly interesting).

2. HELP COOK – Ok, so this one might be kind of obvious… but it can work quite well to try and involve the kids in the cooking. What are some age appropriate things they can do with you? Peeling carrots with our peeler is easy enough for even a toddler! Or how about peeling garlic? There’s shredding lettuce, snapping beans, setting the table, mixing…

If you take a step back and think about what you’re making, you might actually be able to involve them at certain points. Just budget a little extra time and potentially more clean up. 🙂

I recommend The Learning Tower for safely allowing kids to be up at counter height, even from a young age. And if you are a handy-type, you might try this IKEA hack of same.

3. KITCHEN BAND – This one is an oldy, but goody! When my kids were really small, I always had a bottom drawer dedicated to items that they could sit and play with on the floor in the kitchen while I cooked. I periodically changed the items in the drawer to maintain their curiosity. They liked to play with kitchen things, just like mom. and bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons. And who says that’s just for babies?! I bet you there are some big kids that would be entertained for at least as long as you need to get dinner on the table if you asked them to pretend play with real kitchen things on their own. Try it out!

4. CRAFT – Prepare the materials for a Valentine’s Day Craft and haul it out when the timing is just right, so that you can escape to the kitchen to prep dinner. Make sure you choose an activity that needs little supervision or plan to be in and out of the kitchen… I rely strongly on The Artful Parent blog for craft ideas. See her list of 19 Valentine’s Day Arts & Crafts here.

5. ELECTRONICS – So, you could always turn on the TV! But you didn’t need me to tell you that… seriously, though, let’s think about electronics for a minute. If your kids are older and interacting proficiently with electronics, there may be an opportunity to use them creatively here. Could they make a music video for you of their favorite song? Or create an ebook to explain what they are learning in Science class (try using this clever app from educreations)? How about facetiming with long distance relatives?

Coconut Curry Salmon

A super simple, quick meal, practically straight from Mark Bittman. Here’s what you need:

* coconut oil
* curry powder
* basmati rice (or other grain of choice)
* fish sauce (optional)
* can of coconut milk

* onion
* garlic
* lime juice
* sweet potatoes (2)
* ginger
* cilantro (garnish)

Prep Ahead:
* Thinly slice onions
* mince garlic
* dice sweet potatoes
* mince fresh ginger

Heat some coconut oil and cook a thinly sliced onion and a minced clove of garlic for a couple of minutes until soft; add a tablespoon or so of curry powder and stir until fragrant. Add a can of coconut milk, a couple of diced sweet potatoes, a generous squeeze of lime juice, a few dashes of fish sauce if you like, and some minced fresh ginger; bring to a boil and simmer until the sweet potato is almost tender, about five minutes. Cut a couple of skinless salmon fillets into half-inch cubes and add them to the pan; reduce to a simmer and cook until the fish is just done, about five minutes more. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve over basmati rice.