De Ma Cuisine

Tips Archive



October 2020



Cook Once, Use it Twice

Written by , Posted in How To, Meal Hero, Menu Planning, Thoughts

My goal when I’m planning our menu is to make healthy meals that are going to taste great. But, I also want them to fit into our grocery budget and I want them to be easy. We don’t eat a lot of take-out. Most of our meals are made from scratch and are eaten at home. We enjoy this lifestyle. But, sometimes I get overly ambitious with my menu planning and forget to add the tired factor to the equation. 

I know it can’t just be me who is often tired and a bit hangry at the end of the day. It’s easy for me to want to get takeout or open a box of mac and cheese. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those. But, my goal is for these to be a treat rather than the norm. So when I plan my menu, I try to plan for ways to use our leftovers well. It makes it feel like I’ve given myself the gift of time. 

I also don’t like food to go to waste. Food isn’t cheap and I grew up in a family that didn’t like to waste it and made every effort to be mindful about using what we had and using it well. I’ve taken that into my own kitchen. If we roast a chicken to make lazy Sunday afternoon sandwiches with mayo, Maldon salt, and the last of the summer’s tomatoes, it’s also going to be made into Chicken Pot Pie and Pad Thai before the bones are turned into stock

I’ve been working with a meal planning app called Meal Hero. The way that Meal Hero works (type in an ingredient and get tons of recipe inspiration) is such a great way to menu plan and get creative with what you’ve got on hand. I especially love it for planning to Cook Once, Use it Twice.

Here are some of my favorite ways to do this, using recipe inspiration from Meal Hero’s site and my own: 

Roasted Chicken

Start with: Roasted Chicken (served with Oven Baked Brown Rice and Green Bean Fries)

  • I love to roast a whole chicken. It feeds us for many meals and it freezes well. If you want to plan ahead, you could roast two, take the meat off the bones and freeze it in containers that are labeled for their intended meal. 
  • I would substitute it in things like Chicken Curry in a Hurry and then suddenly your cooking time drops from twenty minutes to the time it takes to cook the veggies and reheat the chicken. Winner winner chicken curry dinner.
  • Don’t have time or energy to roast a chicken? Many grocery stores carry pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. No shame in picking a couple up. Have it for dinner (it’s already hot and ready to go!) and then save the rest for other meals. We do this often. 


Start with: Pad Thai

  • When I’m making meals like Pad Thai, I like to cook a big batch of tofu, which already makes for a quick meal, and save the leftovers to use in other quick meals. If you have any leftover chicken this is a great way to use it too. 


Start with: Tired Pasta

  • This is an easy meal to make when you have last minute dinner guests or you forgot to defrost the pork chops that you were planning to make for a weeknight dinner. No big deal. You got this! My favorite way to make it is by cooking ground meat in a dry skillet and letting it get a bit crispy. Then I’ll add some frozen peas… I know, fancy. I’ll add some torn hearty greens like spinach or kale and a big handful of chopped scallions. Add in the cooked pasta with a bit of its starchy cooking water. Let everything get happy in the pan for a minute or two. Add a little salt and pepper to season. To serve I like a drizzle of olive oil and maybe dusting of grated cheese, and dinner is ready in a flash. If I were to cook some extra ground meat then I’d have it ready for things like Chili, (add it to) Tacos, and Taco Salad
  • I usually cook a whole pound of pasta when I make it for dinner. Then it’s ready to go into Chicken Noodle Soup or be reheated with some butternut squash and a splash of cream and topped with some crispy bacon. 

Ground Meat

Start with: Tacos


Start with: Brothy Beans on Toast

  • I like to cook a few varieties of dried beans ahead of time and use them as needed. But, I also love the ease of opening a can of beans. Just depends on the time that I have to prepare. 
  • To make the Brothy Beans on Toast: Take whatever beans you have on hand. Add a little liquid and seasonings like salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Toast some bread. Rub the toasted bread with garlic. Top with the beans and a drizzle of olive oil. I like this dish served with Coleslaw and Tomatoes and Avocado with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Maldon salt.


Start with: Chili

  • If you’re like me and you love chili that has both meat and beans, those beans in the above section will come in super handy here. If you’re in the no beans chili camp, I’m here for you too. Both are delicious. 
  • Make with the Leftovers:
    • Taco Salad (I’m all for a super quick meal that’s ready in the time it takes to ask the family to wash their hands for dinner!)
    • Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese (I like to serve this with Coleslaw or a bright salad with a vinaigrette)
    • Sweet Potato Bowls with Chili on top (I like to cube sweet potatoes, toss them with oil and salt, and roast them, flipping once, until they’re crispy outside, tender inside. Then top with reheated leftover chili or, like I did the other day, topping with leftover crispy pork and cabbage and some bacon.)
    • Hasselback Potatoes with Chili on top

When prepping for these meals, you could do it all at once, or just do my trick and roast two chickens at the same time, add an extra pound of ground meat to the pan and reserve half of it to freeze for other meals (labeled with the intended meals and dates to make your life even easier), or add some extra noodles to the pot. They’re little things like this that have made a big difference in how I feel when it’s 5pm and I forgot to stop working and I’m hangry. If I remember that I already cooked half of what I need for dinner and it just needs to be reheated, that’s motivation enough to put down the phone and not order takeout.

What are your favorite meals to make big batches of so that you can Cook Once, Use it Twice?

Happy Cooking!

The original post, written by Rachel Oberg, owned by Meal Hero, first appeared on the Meal Hero site. It has been used with permission. It has been adapted slightly. The copyright for the photos that appear in this post are owned by Rachel Oberg.



July 2015



How to Conserve Water in the Kitchen

Written by , Posted in How To, Thoughts

Here in California, we’re in our fourth year of a serious drought. We’re all doing our part to conserve water. Lawns are turning brown, washing machines are only being run when they’re full, and we’re turning off the tap when we brush our teeth.

But, what about in the kitchen? After Tim and I began making a conscious effort to conserve more water, I realized how much had been going down the drain.

My dad is a Senior Principal Technologist for Natural Treatment Systems (a fancy way to say that he designs wetlands). For over 30 years he has worked for a company that treats waste water, that helps companies clean up and naturally treat water (wetlands), and is a major force in providing the world with more clean water. When I was a kid, my brothers and I had t-shirts that read, “I NEED CLEAN WATER TO GROW”. I didn’t get it at the time. Water isn’t something a 6 year old usually contemplates. But now, as a grownup, paying our monthly water bill and trying to save as much as possible, I see so much more of the merit to what he is doing (way to go Dad!!).

So I asked him for a few tips, to add to my own, for conserving water in the kitchen. Here’s what we came up with.


When you boil water for tea or coffee (hello pour over coffee, my current favorite!), let the excess water cool completely and use it to water plants (even fruits and veggies).


Scrape dishes off rather than rinsing. If you need to soak an extra dirty dish, strain any food particles, dump the soaking water in the rinsing bowl, and use the water for the flowers or the grass.

Use biodegradable soaps and save the water from rinsing washed dishes in a large bowl. Use it to water plants and flowers. Some say to fill the sink with hot soapy water on one side and hot rinsing water on the other side (if you have a double sink). We don’t use this method because there often aren’t enough dishes to justify it, or, mainly, because it’s easier to collect the water in a bowl (I feel like less goes down the drain).

If you have to use a garbage disposal, use the already spent rinse water from doing the dishes, rather than fresh water from the tap.


Wash fruits and veggies over the rinsing bowl, or use a small bowl with a bit of water in it, and dip, scrub, and dip to rinse (or use a trickle of water to rinse over the bowl). Then use that water for the garden (if it’s just veggie washing water, use it to water your fruits and veggies too). You can also dip your veggie scrubber in water, scrub the veggies, and rinse over a bowl. Even extra dirty potatoes don’t need to be under running water the whole time.


Steam rather than boil. But, if you must boil, reuse the water. If you’re boiling veggies, the used water can be used for pasta, beans, rice, stocks, and soups. Then, whatever isn’t used or absorbed, can be cooled down and used on the grass or flowers (I do this, I don’t know if it’s best to use pasta water in the flowers, but I really don’t like to dump it down the drain if possible).


One last thing, even though it’s not in the kitchen… A lot of water goes down the drain when the shower is turned on and we wait for the water to get hot (or cold, depending on the weather). We keep a bowl by the shower that’s used to collect it. Since it’s soap-free, it can be used on the veggie garden too.

Ok, for real last tip, turn off the water when brushing teeth, shaving, sudsing up (yep, even in the shower), washing dishes… just turn it off! It’s not that much more of a hassle to turn the tap back on (especially if you have one of those fancy faucets that just needs you to wave your hand by it).

Whether it’s a time of drought or not, it’s always a good thing to conserve water. This drought will end at some point, but there will be others. What if we kept to these water saving practices so that there’s always enough?!



July 2015



Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup

Written by , Posted in Dairy-Free, Dinner, Fruit, Gluten Free, Herbs, Lunch, Quick and Easy, Sides, Soups, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian


Summer isn’t usually the time of year that people are busting out the soup recipes. I realize that. But, it is the time of year for squash and tomatoes, so let’s make an exception.

Tomato Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods. I have memories of being at camp as a kid on a rainy summer day, eating grilled cheese and tomato soup in the dining hall. (That’s one of the few good memories I have of camp… I wasn’t much of a camper.) It wasn’t just camp, or even just during childhood. This has always been one of my favorite meals. It brings with it a wave of nostalgia, but it’s also a quick and easy meal that packs in fruits, veggies, grains, and protein (if you add the grilled cheese).


I started it off with some summer squash and salt. Simple and easy. I added some hot peppers (I used half a jalapeño and a whole Hungarian hot pepper, both without their ribs and seeds) and garlic. Everyone cooks away for a little while.


If you have tons of tomatoes on hand, this would be a great time to use them. You’d want to cook for longer, but, it’d be great. I don’t yet have an abundance of tomatoes. My garden holds the promise of things to come with plenty of green tomatoes. But, they’re not ready quite yet. The tomatoes that we’ve gotten in our Abundant Harvest Organics box are precious and I like to use them raw, on sandwiches, to top potato salad, or as a simple side. So this time I’ve used canned tomatoes. I think both ways would be great. You could also roast the tomatoes like I did on the show a few years ago. Lots of options here.


Since basil and tomatoes are pretty much best friends, I added a ton. Doesn’t matter what color – purple, green, lemon basil… just as long as it’s fresh.


You could leave the soup chunky if you wish. But, I like my tomatoey soups to be smooth, so I blended it up. I learned the hard way that if you’re not using an immersion (or hand) blender (so a regular blender) that it’s imperative that you take the lid’s plug out and cover the hole with a clean tea towel. If you leave the plug in, it will most likely (at least in my experience) fall in and get blended up. This will mean not just ruined soup (sad), but a big mess (annoying), and soup splattering all over you (ouch). Learn from me, friends. Take out the plug. 😉


If you’re planning to enjoy the whole pot of soup the day of, you’re golden. If you end up with leftovers or just want to make it ahead of time and pop it in the freezer, you need to cool it down quickly before it goes into the fridge. So, here’s a trick: To cool the soup down quickly, add only 2 C stock when cooking. Then after it’s cooked, add 1 C frozen stock or ice and stir in to cool down. When it’s cooled down, put it in the fridge to cool completely before freezing.


I like to store things in the freezer in smaller containers so that I’m not defrosting a large container for just one or two portions. Each container gets a label with the name, date, and number of people it will serve. To defrost, pop it into the fridge overnight. Or, just add it frozen to a soup pot with a bit of water or stock in the bottom and reheat.

Happy Eating!

Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 19 minutes

Total Time: 29 minutes

Yield: 4

Spicy Summer Squash and Tomato Soup


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 C summer squash, roughly chopped
  • to taste salt
  • 1/2 to 1 1/2 hot peppers (depending on what type), ribs and seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • to taste salt
  • to taste pepper
  • pinch ginger
  • 2 C crushed tomatoes (or tomato puree)
  • 3 C stock or water
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 C fresh basil, chopped


  1. Heat a soup pot over medium-low. Add oil. Add squash and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add hot pepper and cook for 2 minutes. add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes through maple syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until veggies are tender.
  2. Remove from heat and add basil. Blend with a hand blender (or in batches in a regular blender, with the lid's plug removed and the hole covered with a clean tea towel) for 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.



April 2015



Substitution Guide

Written by , Posted in How To, Menu Planning, Thoughts


I remember talking to a friend about a recipe once. She wasn’t sure what to do because she didn’t have the specific type of cheese needed for what she was making. This dilemma isn’t limited to cheese. It can be difficult to know what to do if a recipe calls for carrots, but all you have are parsnips. Or any other fruits and veggies for that matter. One solution is to go out to the grocery store when you’ve forgotten an ingredient. From time to time that’s essential. When you’re baking, for example, unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s tough to substitute and have it turn out, because all of the ingredients are there for a specific purpose. No baking powder? Don’t just substitute with baking soda. You’ll get a very different result. But, with regular cooking, making soups, pastas, frittatas… sub away my friends!


I’m very thankful that I’m pretty good at substituting in recipes (the non-baking kind). I actually prefer to cook without a recipe. It’s much easier for me. A recipe makes me feel confined. I like to cook with what I have and am pretty good at figuring out what works well together (I also love to use The Flavor Bible and The Vegetarian Flavor Bible as tools for paring and substituting).


Whether you like to use a recipe or not, it’s always good to learn how to substitute. The more that I’ve cooked, the more that I’ve gotten to know my ingredients, and I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some of the things that I will substitute.

Original Ingredient Substitute With Substitute With Substitute With
Apples Pears Asian Pears Persimmons
Lemons Limes Oranges Kumquats
Peaches Apricots/Apriums Plums/Pluots Nectarines
Figs Grapes Cherries
Strawberries Raspberries Blueberries Blackberries
Watermelon Cantaloupe Honeydew
Beets Carrots Rutabaga
Broccoli Cauliflower Cabbage Brussels Sprouts
Celery Fennel
Carrots Parsnip Sweet Potatoes Winter Squash
Potatoes Rutabaga Kohlrabi Sweet Potatoes
Garlic Garlic Chives Green Garlic
Greens Cabbage Mâche Radicchio
Bok Choy Tokyo Bekana Red Choi Mei Qing Choi
Daikon Radish Red Radish Black Spanish Radish
Green Beans English Peas Snap Peas
Onions Shallots Leeks Green/Spring Onions
Winter Squash Sweet Potatoes Pumpkin
Arugula Dandelion Greens Arugula Flowers Mizuna
Broccoli Rabe Broccoli Broccoli Di Cicco Rapini
Turnips Rutabaga Radishes Potatoes
Fava Beans English Peas
Zucchini Pattypan Squash Crookneck Squash Scallopini
Acorn Squash Butternut Squash Delicata Squash Kabocha Squash
Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti Noodles
Corn Peas
Okra Sinqua
Bell Peppers Sweet Peppers
Beefsteak Tomatoes Cherry Tomatoes Roma Tomatoes
Cilantro Parsley
Basil Parsley
Chives Green Onions Spring Onions
Rosemary Thyme
Tarragon Fennel Fronds
Chocolate Mint Mint
Marjoram Oregano
Sage Oregano
Lemon Balm Lemon Basil Lemongrass
Rice Bulgur Wheat Quinoa Orzo Pasta
Cheddar Cheese Monterey Jack
Parmesan Cheese Gruyère
Sour Cream Greek Yogurt Plain Yogurt
Cream Cheese Ricotta Cheese
Ground Beef Ground Turkey/Chicken Bulgur Wheat Tempeh
Bacon Pancetta Prosciutto Ham
Chicken Stock Vegetable Stock
Tempeh Tofu Bulgur Wheat
Salmon Tuna
Sugar* Honey Maple Syrup
Butter* Olive Oil Coconut Oil Canola Oil

(Please note that many of these original ingredients can also be substituted for the ingredients to substitute with.)

*Except when baking, unless you know how to adapt the recipe. 😉


Happy Eating!



February 2015



How To Eat Well on a Budget

Written by , Posted in How To, Menu Planning, Storage/Prep, Thoughts


Sometimes the word “budget” is enough to make me want to hide under the covers. It can be tricky to manage to eat well, whilst keeping the budget in check. When we were first married, we had a very small grocery budget. I started planning our menu in advance, so that I could go to the grocery store with a detailed list, knowing how much I would be spending. I got pretty good at it, and found that I really enjoyed it. In the years since, I’ve tried to keep to it, regardless of the state of our bank account.

It’s not always been easy, but it’s definitely one thing that has helped us to keep our budget a bit lower. (It’s so important to me that I wrote a three part series on it, for the Kitchen Basics section. Have a look! Here’s a link to part 1, part 2, and part 3.)


I’ve been eating organic since before it was trendy. It’s always made sense to me. We’re thankful that Abundant Harvest Organics is so affordable. But, since other organic food is often a bit more expensive than conventionally farmed food, it’s not always possible to stock the pantry with all organic ingredients. The advice that I try to follow, is to do the best that I can. So, we eat as much organic food as possible, but during the leaner times, some foods take priority. For me, the foods that I try not to budge on are: fruits and veggies (but even there, there’s some wiggle room if needed – produce with a peel enables you to peel away the chemical laden skin, things that are sprayed directly – think berries, are not as easy to remove the pesticides, even when washed), milk, and meat.


Speaking of meat, this is an area where we have cut waaaay back. We love meat. It adds great flavor to soups, it’s so yummy roasted, and the protein it provides is wonderful. But, it’s expensive, especially when you’re choosy about getting the best quality, like I am. So, here’s what we’ve done. We eat meat maybe 2-4 times a week. And when we do, it’s in small portions. For example, I like to buy a whole chicken, and then it will often feed Tim and I for 4-6 meals. The first meal, he might have a thigh and half of a breast, I’ll have the other half of the breast. The rest of the meat will be cooked, portioned out, and frozen, to be saved for 3-5 more meals. I can make it stretch by adding things like lots of veggies, rice, and beans to a dish or a meal. And with the remaining meat, I might be able to make: Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken Bean and Rice Enchiladas (add rice and sub chicken for the beef in the recipe I’ve linked to), Chicken and Rice Soup or Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Chili, and Chicken Stir Fry. For the other meals that don’t contain meat, I rely on protein from other sources (legumes, quinoa, dairy, veggies, nuts) to help to fill us up.


When cooking meat, I try to not only make the most of the meat itself, but also to stretch it even further and save the bones to make chicken stock. It’s not even necessary to use veggies in there (although veggie scraps are great). Just some bones, herbs, water and an hour or two will result in a flavorful stock. Same goes for scraps from our veggies. I keep a compost bucket in the fridge, but I also keep a gallon ziptop bag or two in the freezer, to collect anything that’s worth saving (which is usually most of it). Then about once every month or two I dump the contents of the bag into a big pot, cover it with water, and let it simmer for an hour or two. Then, voilà, veggie stock! At about $4 for a 32 oz. box of stock at the grocery store, the savings adds up quickly.


Other things that I like to make rather than buy: tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, pesto, hummus, pie crust, baguettes, pizza dough, biscuits, and jam. Soon, I’m going to attempt to make sandwich bread. Wish me luck. 😉

There are definitely things that I can’t make, grow, or produce on my own (although some I’d love to try making, just haven’t gotten up the courage yet). So, I keep these staples on hand: brown rice, lentils, quinoa, pasta, nut butters, balsamic and rice vinegar, olive oil, dried or canned beans, eggs, cheese, milk, butter, yogurt, salt, dried spices, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce, all purpose flour, and whole wheat flour.

It’s a journey, for sure. There are ups and downs, failures and successes, lean months and months with more than we need. But, following all of these self-set guidelines has really helped us to stay within an affordable budget while we continue to strive to eat well, no matter what the situation.