In the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Sarah Hart, the talented every-woman behind the Home is Where the Hart Is  Instagram and blog. Sarah is the mother of four boys in the suburbs of New York City, who appreciates the kitchen for the solitude it offers as much as the family togetherness. Her kitchen is a touchpoint to the past and also a place to enjoy holiday crafts, which she’s sharing with us today. Welcome, Sarah!

Spending time in the kitchen during the holidays is one of my most favorite things, especially when the kids are involved. The smells, the twinkly lights, the greens and holiday tunes playing in the background make for a cozy spot to create wonderful holiday memories and traditions.  Because I love the holidays so much, I don’t stop at the Christmas tree when decorating our home.  Instead, I like to add little touches throughout our entire home, especially in the kitchen since it’s where I spend the majority of my time.  Little touches like old Santa mugs that belonged to my grandmother and our elf Chippy really add some cheer to the space.

One of my favorite simple ways to decorate is by drying orange slices in the oven and using them for garland or ornaments.  I usually hang the oranges somewhere in the kitchen, but this year I decided to add them to the garland that surrounds our front door and used the leftovers for ornaments on the tree.  The great thing about these dried oranges is that they will usually last you more than one year if you store them in an air-tight container.

In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

I have a confession to make before I share this “recipe” with you: as much as I enjoying spending time in the kitchen with my boys, sometimes that time isn’t always the most relaxing. There’s often bickering about who gets to crack the egg or who’s turn it is to stir.  There’s also often a lot of mess, which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nice to have a kitchen activity we can ALL participate in without fighting or tears, and that won’t end with me cleaning flour off the ceiling.  Just make some hot chocolate for back up in case anyone is feeling a little Scrooge-y.

In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart


I found this recipe from Martha Stewart (who else) years ago that I use as a guideline:

1 navel orange

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar


Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat.  Top with orange slices in a single layer, and generously dust with sugar.  Bake until the peels are dry and the flesh is translucent, about 2 1/2 hours.

Just a few notes here:  I use whatever oranges I have sitting on my counter leftover from my Thanksgiving turkey prep.  Sometimes I line my baking sheets, sometimes I don’t.  I have never dusted them with sugar, but they still look beautiful to me when they come out of the oven.  Also, I find I need to bake them for closer to 4 hours to get them the way I really like them.  But like I said, you can use this recipe as a guideline.  A helpful tip though: let the oranges sit out on the counter for a day or two after they come out of the oven so they can harden up a bit, then you can simply string them up with some twine or ribbon, or insert ornament hooks directly through the flesh for hanging.

Whether hanging from your kitchen window or on your tree, strung up around your front door or displayed in a pretty jar, these oranges are just so festive and cheerful to me.  As pretty as they are though, it’s the tradition behind them and the process of making them with my family that really makes them so special.  Happy Holidays!
In the Kitchen with Sarah HartIn the Kitchen with Sarah Hart

All images and words by Sarah Hart for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Sarah on Instagram @homeiswherethehartis and her blog Home is Where the Hart Is. Thank you, Sarah!


“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Esther Meinel-Zottl, the warm-hearted voice and photographer behind Mama to the Little Ones and My Little Treasures of Life. Esther is the mother of twin preschool girls and lives in the Bavarian Alps, where her family has established a home culture that reflects nature, especially in the kitchen. Welcome, Esther!

A lot of my childhood memories are connected to the kitchen. I grew up in the former GDR, in communistic times. My parents had four kids and we always lived in really old and simple flats. No heating systems. Only some of the rooms had ovens to heat our home, and they were fueled with black coal. We had to carry up the coal from the dusty, dark basement. That was one of our chores. The kitchen with the oven was the first room to be heated in the morning. We all gathered there and I remember that my mum used to dress us there as well. She placed pots of water or milk on the oven to heat up for breakfast, and even though the kitchen was old and simple and sometimes dusty from heating with black coal, it was my favourite place to be. I connect the warm, tender, and gentle side of my mother and father with it. Sure, we had arguments and loud discussions there as well. But when we gathered at the wooden sitting area my father built, it was the most connected feeling of togetherness, the thought “we are family”. Until now, most of our long, precious, and deep conversations take place in my parent’s kitchen. It always has been the most delightful room for me, no matter the flat they or we lived in. Even now, when visiting Oma and Opa, the kitchen is where the grandchildren run first after they wake up, and most of the time, they find their grandparents in the kitchen. It’s funny that much later I realized that we also created a wooden sitting corner in our kitchen. My husband and I both grew up with wooden sitting corners, and now we have created the same, but somehow unconsciously. in_the_kitchen_esther_meinel-zottl-9in_the-kitchen_esther_meinel-zottl-6In the Kitchen with Esther -- on Cloistered Away

When we built and designed our house and when it came to make decisions about our kitchen, I must say that our ideas and perceptions were really high and clear. We wanted out kitchen to be the centre of our home and to be the place where we feel comfortable and at ease. We didn’t want to save money on that part of the house, where we both love to spend time cooking, baking, gathering and talking. And even though we built an ecological wooden house, we choose a kitchen with real, old wood. Oh yes, a lot of wood in our house. For us wood symbolizes warmth, our love and passion for nature and the natural things, and our value for the old. We wanted our kitchen to be spacious and connected with our living area. We wanted it to be a place where we all like to gather and spend time. 2 years later, I must say our kitchen really has become the centre of our house.

The girls have their own little wooden play kitchen in there and they spend more time playing in our big open kitchen than in their own room. Even though our kitchen might look and feel more like a living room, we of course also have the functional kitchen cupboards and corners. Some of them are easy to reach for the girls, so they can take out plates e.g. and help us prepare setting the table. When the girls were babies we bought the Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchairs, which are very often used by German families. Those wooden highchairs are so handy in many ways. Not only for the littles to sit on the table, but later on for them to push them around in the kitchen and to get up and stand up on them to reach our kitchen island or the sink, to be more independent and help out. For me, it always has been important to involve the girls as much as possible in my kitchen work. A lot of times that has meant I have way more work with three year olds around, more work cleaning up afterwards, more work because to instruct them and to let them try. But I know it that way now, and I want them to feel good and to enjoy the food we’re preparing, so I think it’s necessary. A year ago, it was more playing or ‘getting to know’ food ingredients with their textures, smells, colours and tastes e.g. when I let them be part of baking bread. Now they help wash/brush vegetables we have plucked from our vegetable field. They cut vegetables (the thick carrot slices are easily recognized) and fruits or squeeze our orange juice.

in_the_kitchen_esther_-meinel-zottl-7In the Kitchen with Esther - on Cloistered Away

This year’s spring, summer, and autumn have been really remarkable for me. It was the first time that we planted and grew our own vegetables at our neighbour’s field. He is an organic farmer and we’re over at his farm nearly every other day. His generous offer was truly the highlight of my year. I involved the girls with sowing and taking care of the vegetables by pulling up weeds. They loved to harvest all our vegetables and the wonder in their eyes by dragging out the carrots, by trying to get the huge zucchinis, by seeing how our peppers finally turned red or by searching and digging for the potatoes… my heart was full. They didn’t even clean the dirty carrots and they ate so much soil when they ate the carrots like little rabbits. Their pride and curiosity and their naturalness of eating our home-grown veggies in our dishes surprised me. I harvested so much mangold/chard over the summer that I tried in different dishes and I didn’t have a problem to convince them to try it. Of course potatoes and carrots are still their favourites. The gardening project this year really helped me to see that its worth investing time to involve our kids in the preparation of food and in gardening. They learnt so much and we had such wonderful and delicious meals all together.

Seasonal and regional food plays a big role for us, especially now that we moved from Munich to the countryside. We get eggs from our farmer neighbour and buy their organic certified (demeter) meat. The girls and I get milk every second or third day from another farmer in our village. That has become a wonderful routine we love to combine with an afternoon walk before. We have a really good alpine dairy half an hour from where we live. We love to buy and supply ourselves with lots of good cheese and fresh butter (you get in a huge bar. I cut that bar in 5 pieces and freeze them) there once in a while. We hiked through lots of alpine meadows this summer, here in our region, where lots of the cows live during the summer and it did not only feel like in the movie of ‘Heidi’, but it was such a joy for me to see how freely the cows live and move up there, where we get our milk and sometimes our cheese and butter.

in_the_kitchen_esther-3In the Kitchen with Esther -- on Cloistered AwayAnd because our life on the countryside here in the Bavarian Alps influences our weekly routine and our kitchen life a lot, I chose a really typical alpine recipe for you. One we all love a lot.

Kaiserschmarrn is really simple and originally from Austria. There’s probably about 50 different recipes for it, but the recipe I’m going to share with you was handed to me by my sister. She uses it to make thin pancakes (almost as thin as Crèpes). So you can try it for both. We love Kaiserschmarrn and I can’t count how often we eat it. We don’t make it that often at home, but on weekends that demand a lot. We especially love to try it at different mountain huts. It has become our hiking motivation when hiking up to a mountain hut. They usually serve it. So even though we live in the Bavarian/German Alps I choose this Austrian recipe simply because it’s typical for the alpine region (no matter if in Bavaria or Austria). I have become really picky about the right consistence of the dough/batter. It shouldn’t be too eggy or too floury or too dry. Some like it with raisins, some not. Some like to eat a sort of plum compote with it, some like applesauce with it. Some like it caramelized, some flambé.

Because I’m not the person that can go with an exact recipe (I always vary) this recipe changes as well. If I use the recipe and dough/batter to make pancakes/thin Crèpes, than I use less milk and a bit more flour. If I use the recipe for its original purpose as Kaiserschmarrn, than I use it exact like that, but I beat the egg whites and gently fold them under by the end. So all you need is:

Ingredients (serves 2 pans):

200g flour (I use spelt flour but originally wheat flour is used)

4 eggs

1 pinch of salt

750 ml milk (I mostly only use 600ml)

  • Mix the milk with egg yolks and salt and slowly add the flour. After beating the egg whites, you can carefully fold it in with the rest of the batter.
  • Use a big heatproof coated frying pan for the dough/batter.
  • Then use quiet a lot of vegetable oil with a butter flavour or butter to gently roast it.
  • Then pour in half of the batter, but don’t wonder if it’s really liquid and thin.
  • I use medium heat to cook the underside until light brown, then turn over the dough using a spatula and bake/roast it again until its golden brown. (you could also bake it for 6–8 minutes in the pre-heated oven)
  • Then I tear the Kaiserschmarrn into small pieces, using two forks or the spatula.
  • You can now spread it out on the plates and top it with icing sugar.

I love to caramelize some nuts with maple syrup and butter that I spread over the Kaiserschmarrn before I top it with icing sugar. And as mentioned before, you are welcome to cook the Kaiserschmarrn with raisins. If you do so, just spread some over the batter after you poured it into the pan.

Enjoy your meal or as we in Bavaria/Germany would say: an Guadn, lasst’s eich schmeggn!

All images and words by Esther Meinel-Zottl for Cloistered Away. You can follow more  from Esther on her blog, My Little Treasures of Life, and on Instagram, @mama_2thelittleones. Thank you, Esther!

in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-2in_the_kitchen_cecile_moliniein_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-4“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Cécile Molinié, the inspiring creative at Cécile Moli and contributing member of See My Paris. Cécile is the mother to four children and lives in Paris, France, where she cherishes her kitchen as both the center of their family life and the touchpoint to nature. Welcome, Cécile!

I grew up in the French countryside and at a very young age became used to helping my mother grow the vegetable garden, pick the berries, plums or apples. I learned how to preserve some of them for winter and also about the real connection between man and nature. We had a very big kitchen with a view on the garden, and as I loved cooking and found it creative and relaxing after long days at school or in college, I tried a lot of recipes, from the daily ones to the very elaborate ones. I loved it!in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-13in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-7 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-9 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-8When I first moved to Paris to study law more than 20 years ago, space was scarce and the kitchen was very tiny. But there is a story about Parisian kitchens, even in very chic an large classic Parisian apartments. The first time I entered such a beautiful place, I was amazed that the kitchen was isolated from the rest of the apartment, put at the end of a long, dark corridor, close to the back stairway (in French, escalier de service: the staircase used by the maids and cooks to enter the apartments by a back door in the 19th century). Most Parisian apartments are made like this. The kitchen was the place no one should see. The living room, dining room and library were very large and opulent and the kitchen very small. It was the case in the three first places we lived in with my husband and growing family until we finally bought our current apartment six years ago.

It was a big space in a modern building which had been occupied by offices for 40 years and needed a full renovation. The architect and I decided to put the kitchen at the heart of the house, close to the bedrooms, the living room, dining room, with lots of light from the terrace and a place to eat or work at a big table, a place specifically dedicated to cooking. in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-3in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-11 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-5in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-12So this is our Parisian kitchen, one that doesn’t look so Parisian in a way! This place is where we all gather for meals or after school for homework or tea time with friends. It is always warm and welcoming. I often take my computer there to work with the kids around me. The kids like to help me cooking when they have time. Little Miss always sets the table with the silver, while the others help me with the vegetables, or the sauce, and of course with the dessert!

I decided to share a typical French dish, La Blanquette de Veau. Even the name is evocative for an English speaking person; blanquette pronounces exactly like blanket.  It is the perfect comfort dish for the cold Autumn and Winter days that all my children love and ask for––the very same one my grandmother cooked when I visited her. The recipe was inspired by the children’s cookbook pictured, one that was mine when I was a child. It is really easy to make. It just takes time to prepare and must be watched. Afterward, I always keep the remaining broth and use it to make a soup for the evening with angel hair pasta or these small letters pasta, very popular in France with the children.in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-6in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-10LA BLANQUETTE DE VEAU (Veal Stew in a White Sauce) 

Serves 6

You need :

  • 1,2 kg (2 ½ pounds) of veal shoulder cut into little cubes
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 big onion, peeled with the cloves stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut lenghtwise
  • 2 leeks mostly the white part (keep one green leaf for the bouquet garni below)
  • 1 bouquet garni (ie : 1 little branch of bay leaves, one of thyme, one green leaf of leek, a few springs of parsley) or at least only the bay leaves ; Tie all the herbs together into the leek leaf.
  • 1 table spoon sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • parsley or chives (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup 100 ml crème fraiche (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 500g white rice

Method :

  • Put the veal pieces in a large pot (cocotte in french) add 2 liters of cold water and bring to a boil.
  • Skim and add all the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt.
  • Add some water to cover everything if necessary
  • Cover, lower the heat and let cook for one hour.
  • When the veal and vegetables are tender, remove the bouquet garni.
  • Let it cool a little bit and leave the meat in the pot and put the broth in a large bowl.
  • Cook the rice
  • Make the roux : melt the butter in a large saucepan, add  the flour, it must get a little beige (not brown), add one or two pinches of salt. Then add, one at a time, 7 to 8 laddles (3 ½ to 4 cups) of broth into the saucepan, stirring constantly between each addition. The broth turns thicker and makes a creamy white sauce.
  • Mix the creme fraiche and egg yolk.
  • Add the creme fraiche and egg yolk mixture to the sauce and stop the heat.
  • Pour this sauce into the cocotte with the meat and vegetables.
  • Sprinkle with parsley or chives if your children like little green things on their food (mine don’t )

Serve immediately with the rice. Bon appétit !

All images and words by Cécile Molinié for Cloistered Away. You can find more of Cécile’s work on Instagram @cecilemoli and @seemyparis.

in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_life-10 “In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Susanna Hindman, the gentle, candid voice at Revisionary Life. She is the mother of two young children in Baltimore, Maryland, with a desire for simple foods and quality meal times, greatly inspired by her childhood home. Welcome, Susanna. 

I have a few distinct memories of sitting around the table as a family when I was a kid. The words chaotic, messy, loud, delicious, simple, and fast come to mind as I try to piece back together the scene of 7 kids sitting around the table my mom had stripped and refinished all on her own. She was a do-it-yourself kind of woman before it was popular to be so, refinishing furniture, painting better-than-wallpaper murals and details around our home, and homeschooling each and every one of us. She knew only one recipe when she first married, and even though it was my dad’s favorite, she refused to make it for their first year of marriage and diligently worked her way through the Betty Crocker cookbook instead. Today, she’s a free spirit in the kitchen and hardly ever glances at recipes. Spices and seasonings fly this way and that as she indiscriminately tosses dashes of them here and there, often creating little clouds and puffs of aromatics.

While she tried to pass on the experience and skills she’d gained over the years, I wasn’t always keen on absorbing them. So into marriage I went, armed with nothing but some serious pancake and pie skills. (I was a carb lover early on.) Predictably, I repeated the cycle, and the Better Home and Gardens cookbook and I became real good friends. In a way I’m glad, because learning to cook is one of the favorite things my husband and I did together as newlyweds. And thankfully my mom is only ever a phone call away.

in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_life-11in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_life-6in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_lifeEven though my abilities were lacking, my mom did manage to equip me with the basics early on. Already we’ve started introducing our 5-year-old to a few basic kitchen skills in the same way. We’ll see if she’s a better student than I was. My goal is to draw her into the process and give her a bigger vision of what goes in to creating a meal. I have all kinds of dreams about what that will look like as she grows, but for now, involving her can be anything from 5 minutes of chopping vegetables, to practicing fractions while measuring flour, to setting the table, to showing her how to discern when certain fruits are ripe enough to eat. All of that lives within the broader lesson of hospitality and welcome that we want our kids to catch a vision for as we entertain friends and invite in the unlikely stranger. We want so much more for our children than to simply master the mechanics of preparing a meal. Our hope is that in viewing and participating in the preparation that they would grow in identifying and offering the love and generosity that comes with the labor and creativity of that service. For now that looks like teaching them gratitude, proper table manners, and modeling heart-directed questions and dialogue. Pretty normal, often monotonous stuff, but foundational and necessary.

With an 11-month-old roaming underfoot, meal prep needs to be fast and uninvolved most nights. Embracing this particular season with young children, I’ve let go of fancy and labor-intensive dishes, and I tend to gravitate towards simple and easy instead. To me, when done right, simplicity has a sophistication all of its own. When our budget allows, I dress things up with fresh herbs, a special drink, or set out snacks of nice nuts and fruit.

in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_life-2in_the_kitchen_susanna_hindman_revisionary_life-8family_meals_revisionary_life-11Menu planning is something that helps me keep things simple and focused. I do this weekly, usually on Sunday night, preparing me to shop Monday morning. An Everlasting Meal and Family Meals have been recent sources of inspiration for me. To give my mom-brain a break, I’ve adopted a more systematic approach this year, assigning categories of meals to different days of the week. The structure narrows down my choices and helps me make decisions quickly and easily. The categories shift and change with the seasons, making room for variety and natural rhythm.

M O N D A Y | meatless

T U E S D A Y | tacos/soup

W E D N E S D A Y | salad

T H U R S D A Y | chicken anything/roast anything

F R I D A Y | pizza

S A T U R D A Y | leftovers or maybe out to eat

S U N D A Y | pasta

Since we’re still in the early years of parenting, gathering around the table for a meal isn’t always pretty and is rarely relaxing, but we try to keep a few habits in mind to help everyone enjoy the meal and each other’s company. Habits such as:

Practicing gratitude through prayer and compliments for the chef(s).

Exercising intentional relationship using open-ended questions. “What was something that made you sad today?” Can you tell us one way you were able to love someone today?”

Encouraging discovery through requiring everyone to take at least one bite of everything that’s served. (Bribery is sometimes employed for this job. Hashtag: honest motherhood.)

Our meal-time isn’t structured since my husband’s schedule is ever changing, and sometimes I scrap our menu plan and pull out my awesome pancake skills or go out for fast food instead. I’ve been known to cry over uncooperative piecrust and utter curses under my breath when something isn’t going as planned. Those are the nights we order pizza and my 5-year-old reminds me to “take deep breaths.” But there’s such value in the effort and so many benefits to the home-cooked, gather-around-the-table routine, that we aim to make it happen, night after night.

One of my favorite, low prep meals is spatchcock chicken. About an hour before meal-time, I prep the chicken and put it and some potatoes in to roast. 15-20 minutes before it’s done, I’ll add in some vegetables. That’s it! When my husband is home, he gets fancy with the vegetables, and no bribery is needed to polish off every last bite. That’s his recipe below.



fresh whole roasting chicken, ~5 lbs.

coarse salt

cracked pepper

lemon, optional

fresh thyme, optional

1/2 pound small roasting potatoes, quartered

olive oil

Prep. Rinse chicken and remove the giblets. Pre-heat oven to 425. Remove the chicken’s backbone (per Martha Stewart’s handy step-by-step instructions). Place in oven-proof skillet, 13×9 pan, or roasting pan. Pat dry with paper towels. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.

Sides. If there’s room in the pan, place quartered potatoes (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and rosemary or thyme) alongside the chicken. Otherwise, place in a separate pan and roast simultaneously with the chicken.

Cook. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until juices run clear and potatoes are tender.

Serve. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the meat and sprinkle with fresh thyme just before serving, if desired.


2-3 strips thick-cut bacon

12 oz brussels sprouts, bases removed and cut in half

sea salt

cracked pepper

¼ cup white wine

handful of walnuts

handful of gorgonzola cheese

Prep. Chop up and fry 2-3 strips of thick-cut bacon in a cast iron skillet. Once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside for later. In the remaining bacon grease, sauté 1 clove of minced garlic. Once the garlic is golden, remove it from the pan and set aside for later.

Cook. Place brussels sprouts cut side down in bacon grease. Cook until tender (I prefer a slight crunch). Salt and pepper to taste while they are cooking. Immediately before removing the pan from heat, add 1/4 cup of white wine. Remove pan from heat.

Serve. Add bacon and garlic back to the pan. Sprinkle in walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. Best eaten while hot. Be aware that serving them in the cast iron skillet is great but that they will continue to cook some. So if you will not eat them soon, they may get overdone.

All images and content by Susanna Hindman for Cloistered Away. You can  find more from Susanna at Revisionary Life, and also on Facebook and Instagram


“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Myndi DeVore, the creative soul behind Myndi D and Myndi D Food. She is the mother of two children in Chicago, Illinois, and has an eye for simple design and clean foods, both which are reflected in her ideas and meal plans below. Welcome, Myndi!

I grew up in a family that valued cooking at home. We rarely went out to eat, and I learned the importance of the kitchen at a young age. In high school I taught myself to cook a few dishes and would make dinner once a week. When my husband Charlie and I were first married I was inspired to expand my skills in the kitchen. I dove into cookbooks and we began hosting friends for dinners in our little apartment in the back half of a rambling Victorian house at the top of a hill. Our kitchen was scarcely large enough for two people to stand in, but it was ours and felt like a great luxury after living with roommates. We spent many nights washing dishes in the wee hours of the morning after bidding our friends farewell. As I gained confidence in the kitchen I moved away from processed ingredients and towards cooking from scratch.


Almost twelve years later I have continued building on those roots we put down in that cozy kitchen. I still focus on avoiding processed foods and feeding our family healthy, home cooked food. We eat everything but veer towards a plant-based vegetarian diet, eating meat once or twice a week. We try to limit eating out to once a week, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals for our family of four. As our family has expanded, I’ve come to rely on planning and prepping food ahead of time.


Typically, I sit down on Sunday and plan out our week. I warm up some morning coffee, sit down with my favorite cookbooks and make a list. Often I follow a basic template that shifts with the seasons. I find following a template, at least for this phase of our life with young kids, means I don’t feel overwhelmed with meal planning. Our weeks typically go something like this:


MONDAY | Something vegetarian or vegan. When in doubt a pan of roast vegetables with rice and avocado. When we’re in crisis mode? Pancakes or eggs.

TUESDAY | Something in the Mexican family. Think tacos, salads, build your own burrito bowls, enchiladas, migas, etc.  

WEDNESDAY | Wednesdays are busy nights for us, so I’ve come to rely on the slow cooker. Typically I’ll do a curry, braise, or a soup. When I’m on my game I double the slow cooker recipe and put half of the prepared dish in the freezer. In the summer, this night gets replaced with grill night. I like to double up on what we grill too, making enough extra to cover our lunches and other meals.

THURSDAY | Leftovers! In a pinch, my go to is pan frying leftovers and putting an egg on top.

FRIDAY + SATURDAY | Weekends are flexible. Sometimes we eat leftovers. Sometimes we go out. Sometimes we make pizza. Sometimes we order takeout. Sometimes we put the kids to bed and make a cheese plate or a special date night dinner.

SUNDAY |  Sundays are family days. It’s usually the night I cook something more time consuming or tackle a more challenging recipe. We usually do an earlier dinner around 5pm with time afterwards for playing games or watching a movie.


in_the_kitchen_myndi_devore-2in_the_kitchen_myndi_devore-5Our girls love to help in the kitchen. They wash lettuce, grate ginger, pluck herbs, peel and chop vegetables, and stir ingredients. I find involving them usually encourages them to try new things. When we grocery shop I ask them to pick some vegetables and fruit for snacking. If they pick it, they’re more likely to eat it (usually). When it comes to feeding kids, I’ve learned to never underestimate them and that persistence pays off. We’ve always prepared one meal for the family.  They can choose not to finish it, but we always ask them (and encourage and cajole a little) to try a bit of each item on their plate.


Cooking meals day in and day out is work. Often it’s less inspired and more a chore to see to it that everyone gets fed. But I never regret taking the time to prepare a meal. Sitting at the table with my family restores my spirit no matter what we are eating. in_the_kitchen_myndi_devore-8in_the_kitchen_myndi_devore-4in_the_kitchen_myndi_devore-22


+ Keep a tidy, uncluttered kitchen. Clean your fridge weekly and take note of your pantry items.

+ Set aside an hour each week to cook ahead and prep food for the week. Slice vegetables, make a vinaigrette, cook a protein, grain, and something for breakfast.

+ Check out cookbooks from the library to give them a test run before purchasing. Challenge yourself to cook and try new things.

+ Keep a list on the fridge or a notebook handy to write down recipes that work. Even though you think you’ll remember every brilliant meal, you won’t. You’ll have a list of easy, go-to recipes at the ready.


This was one of the first recipes I made when Charlie and I were married. It felt fancy enough for guests, but perfect enough for the two of us, giving us  plenty of leftovers for the freezer. It has evolved since that first dinner party and is a perfect template to adjust to suit your family’s taste.


1 T. coconut oil

1/2 C. minced onion 

4-5 garlic cloves, minced

4 tsp. minced ginger 

2 C. chicken or vegetable stock 

1 tsp. cumin 

1 tsp. coriander 

1 tsp. paprika 

½ tsp. salt 

½ tsp. pepper 

½ tsp. turmeric 

2 cans coconut milk (don’t bother with light)
5 C. thinly sliced vegetables (We typically do zucchini, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and peas)

Peanut Sauce

1 tsp. coconut oil

½ C. peanut butter
(sub almond butter for allergies)
4 T. water

2 T. tamari

2 tsp. rice vinegar

2. tsp. lime juice

2-3 C. cooked chopped chicken, fish, or tofu (optional)


Garnish: toasted coconut, cilantro, green onions, hot sauce

  1. Begin by heating the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until softened, then add the spices. Cook for 30 seconds and add the stock. Simmer for 5 minutes then add the coconut milk. Bring mixture back up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken. Add the thinly sliced vegetables. Simmer mixture for 8-10 minutes or until the vegetables become tender. Add cooked protein if using. Stir well. 
  2. Just before serving, mix up the peanut sauce by combining the peanut butter, water, tamari, rice vinegar, lime juice, and coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat briefly until the mixture begins to bubble, 2-3 minutes. If it is too thick, add a splash of water. Taste and add more lime juice if it needs it.
  3. Spoon rice on to the plates and top with the curry and then a drizzle of the peanut sauce and garnishes on top.

All images and content by Myndi DeVore for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Myndi on Instagram at @myndid and @myndidfood



Although I often share images or videos of our food and family table, I’m also curious how other families connect around the table. What are other kitchen spaces like and how do they include children in the process? Is there even a process? Wink. What type of meals  do other homes prefer and how do they make time together and experience food? This fall, I’m beginning a new series “In the Kitchen” where I plan to introduce other voices into this conversation on kitchen life and food. Each one will share something a bit different from the next, as location and homes and family life vary, but each will share a recipe or two, something to try in our own home. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

To begin the series, I’m introducing Emily Nelson, a swoon-worthy food blogger at Gather&Dine and a mother of two in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a quiet soul with a broad palate and a penchant for whole foods, and I cannot wait to try her Caponata. Welcome, Emily!

in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-2 in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-1When we built our house five years ago, I knew I wanted the kitchen to be at the very center of our home since gathering, cooking, and eating together are such important parts of family life.   I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen, and both my children took a natural interest in working alongside me from a very early age.   Pouring, mixing, and kneading were all fun and relatively easy tasks for them when they were young, and I have fond memories of messy afternoon baking sessions together.  More recently we’ve been focusing a bit more on knife skills, and they have a great sense of accomplishment when they see a heaping bowl of vegetables they’ve chopped entirely on their own.  Working together in the kitchen has been a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with one another.  At the same time, the children build confidence and simultaneously acquire valuable skills to last their lifetimes.

Preparing food together also gives us opportunities to discuss healthy eating habits, which is especially helpful as the children become more independent and capable of making their own food choices.  As a family, we try to eat according to whatever is fresh and seasonal with an overall wholesome and natural approach to food.  While we do not adhere to a vegetarian diet, I do draw a lot of inspiration from various vegetarian cookbooks and blogs.  Both Deborah Madision’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food and have heavily influenced my way of cooking and have been invaluable resources.

in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-4 in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-5

Meal planning once a week helps me to stay organized and minimizes trips to the store.  I find cookbook perusing a delight rather than a chore, and I keep a running list of recipes I want to try.  With my ever-growing list of recipes, I’m never out of ideas when it comes time for my weekly meal planning.  I enjoy experimenting with food so there tends to be a lot of variety in our dinners, but I do try to incorporate at least one favorite and familiar meal on the menu every week.  This helps with building comfort around the table, and also lends to sense of family identity.  Sometimes the kids will join in helping to plan the meals, and Erin Gleeson’s Forest Feast for Kids has been a cookbook they have especially enjoyed.  

We are very intentional about prioritizing our family dinners together.  More and more as the kids have become older, I’m finding that there are numerous activities which can pull us apart at dinnertime.  We try to fight against this as best as we can, and only schedule extracurricular activities during the dinner hour when we absolutely have to.  It’s not easy, but guarding our mealtime together has been a priority nonetheless.  Cooking and eating together has deepened our connections and relationships with each other, and has overall helped us to be a close family.


This caponata is traditionally served along with some crusty bread, and I think it also goes particularly well with grilled rosemary chicken.   It’s a meal that can please both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and is well suited for gatherings of all sorts.  The kids helped with everything from washing and chopping the vegetables to sautéing and garnishing, so this was a family meal in the truest sense.  


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound

1 red bell pepper

1 red onion

4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons capers, drained

¾ cup green olives, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

chopped parsley to garnish

  1. Chop eggplant, red pepper, and onion into ¾-inch pieces.  
  2. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add eggplant, pepper, and onions and cook until vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for an additional minute.  
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar, and salt.  Turn heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  We enjoy this when the vegetables are not overly soft, but if you prefer a softer caponata, simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  4. Garnish with pine nuts and a generous handful of parsley.  Serve warm or at room temperature with grilled rosemary chicken and some crusty bread.  



4 chicken breasts, about 2 pounds

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

lemon wedges and rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional

  1. Place chicken between 2 pieces of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to pound the chicken until it reaches an even 1/2 –inch thickness.  
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add chicken and toss to coat evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Grill chicken breasts for 3-5 minutes on each side.  Garnish with lemon wedges and rosemary along with an additional drizzle of olive oil.  

 All images by Emily Nelson for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Emily at Gather&Dine and also on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest