Amanda: Spending Quality Time in the Kitchen with the Family

“You have a much greater appreciation for food when you prepare it yourself.”

Amanda: Hero in the Kitchen via @cooksmarts
The whole process of cooking takes a lot of time – from planning your meals to grocery shopping to prepping, and finally, cooking the actual meal. Sometimes it can even take the whole day! For a busy mom like Amanda, who loves to paint, run, and go biking, cooking can be way too time-consuming to be able to enjoy leisure activities. Fortunately, Amanda is able to figure out a way to do the things she enjoys, spend time with her son and husband, cook healthy meals, and discover new and tasty foods – without sacrificing anything! Read Amanda’s Heroes in the Kitchen story below to see how she does it.

Name: Amanda Duley
Age: 32
City, State: Suffolk, VA
I cook for: two of my favorite guys (son & husband)
Outside of the kitchen I: paint, run, and enjoy the outdoors (when not working full-time as a graphic artist)
Being able to cook allows me to: decompress. Cooking takes me away from all outside stresses. The kitchen is now my favorite place to be, the hub of our home, and I feel like cooking gives me more time with my family.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Cream-free Corn and Potato Chowder with Rotisserie Chicken

How did you learn to cook?

When I was a teen, being the only vegetarian in my family forced me to cook something pretty early in life. While I cooked a lot in the kitchen with my mom, there came a time when I just had to wing it.

What’s been your biggest cooking challenge in the past?

Cooking meat has always been a challenge because I didn’t pay much attention to its preparation in my younger years. Since our son came along, I’ve been cooking a variety of non-vegetarian and paleo meals and learning what works and what doesn’t from trial and error.

How has your cooking routine changed recently?

I don’t have a lot of time, between working full-time, our son’s gymnastics, swimming lessons, or tutoring, my husband’s rotating shift schedule, and well, life.

Before Cook Smarts, I would spend hours of prime Saturday morning time planning our meals, to include a variety of recipes that shared ingredients for maximum savings and less waste with a moderate quantity of ingredients. Not to mention, the time figuring out how long each meal would take and try to anticipate which days I’d be able to manage cooking a particular dish.

Now, I have a straightforward plan, a simple list and I’m able to shop for the ingredients in record-time. The extra time affords me to paint, run, or hop in the car and hit some trails on our bikes. My husband appreciates the prep and cooking instructions because he’ll start or finish cooking dinner on nights he’s not working, which makes dinner time even more enjoyable. He appreciates being able to help out and know what the game-plan is. Who doesn’t love a little (or a lot of) help in the kitchen? It’s a win-win all around.

“Don’t be afraid to fail or cook something you’re not crazy about, because in time, you’ll learn what you do and don’t like.”

What new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?

Turkish meatballs were definitely a new thing for me, in taste and texture. Ground meat is not one of my favorites, and I really was unsure of the flavor because it contained spices that were like nothing I’d ever eaten. I had a lot of fun cooking the dish with my son, who graciously rolled all the meatballs for me. They were a huge hit, and I felt I’d really accomplished something triumphant.

What advice would you give to other home cooks who want to be cooking more family dinners?

Just take the plunge, open your mind, and try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail or cook something you’re not crazy about, because in time, you’ll learn what you do and don’t like, what you can substitute in recipes, or new meals you can create on your own. You don’t know your full potential until you really try.

Planning ahead is your greatest asset. Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with the basics to allow you the freedom to whip something up whenever needed. Just today, I found myself cooking an impromptu Mac n’ Cheese that was a huge hit, in less than 30 minutes. I like knowing what goes into the food my family and I eat, not from a box or a bag. You have a much greater appreciation for food when you prepare it yourself.


We agree, Amanda – being open-minded and trying new foods is a great cooking experience. You never know if you will find your next favorite thing! And it’s always tastier when you make your own meals…However, we will not be opposed to trying your impromptu Mac n’ Cheese!

Amanda's favorite @cooksmarts meal: Cream-Free Corn & Potato Chowder
To join Amanda and cook meals like her favorite Cream-Free Corn and Potato Chowder, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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