For Sue Schochet, owner of Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley, there’s a happy medium between home cooking and the fast food drive-through. She calls it a preplanned meal kit.
Schochet’s kits, which average about $5 a serving, come in simple brown boxes with instruction labels for making each meal. The kits contain fresh ingredients such as chopped veggies, premade sauces, and spices, which customers can take home and freeze. This allows the busiest people to whip together and enjoy gourmet dishes. How about baked coconut shrimp with orange jalapeno dipping sauce?
A former corporate executive, Schochet, 45,started Healthy Habits after being laid off from her finance job in 2006. She peddles her meal assembly concept at local farmers markets and offers delivery options.
“You’re still using raw ingredients and fresh spices to cook,” said Schochet, “and some say it’s made it less intimidating to try new dishes.”
How is this a time-saving idea?
If you were to make marinated steak tips, for example, you’d have to find a recipe, then run to the grocery store, buy ingredients, marinate and cook or grill, and then clean up. But we can preassemble all this. All you need to do is open the Ziploc bags of meat, brown rice, and vegetables, and then thaw, cook, and serve.
How do you develop the recipes?
I’ll get ideas from my family collection, magazines, cooking shows, or other places. One customer mentioned a mahi mahi with a granola topping, and I researched and figured out the recipe.
With so many different palates, how do you come up with menus that please everyone?
It’s not easy, because sometimes there can be a gap between kid-friendly and gourmet. One all-time favorite is lemon curry chicken, which has a little honey, curry, and golden raisins for a sweet and savory taste. Other favorite dishes are nacho turkey burgers with crushed tortilla chips and Bloody Mary steak tips, which is like a bite of this drink. The kids love cheese stuffed meatballs and pretzel-crusted chicken.
What are some ways that meal prep can be more time consuming than people realize?
The heavy lifting takes place with not just the shopping for ingredients, but also finding the right recipe.
What cooking show inspires you?
Rachael Ray is one of my favorites. She twists up the average meal quite nicely.
When you go home, what will you have for dinner?
I might grill some chicken and put in a little tomato sauce. My new favorite food is kale chips, made by baking the leaves with olive oil until nice and crispy.