My daughter is a perfectly capable cook. In fact, I hear she is a fabulous one, but I couldn’t really say, since she’s only ever cooked for me once in her entire life. As you know, I enjoy cooking, but clean-up? Not so much, so we’ve fallen into the habit of my cooking, and her clearing up whenever she visits. She has evidently convinced her boyfriend to do the same for her when they are at home in London, and complains that both Aaron and I are messy cooks – soooooo, Tatjana has asked me to write (and follow) three tips to keeping your kitchen from looking like a bomb went off when you finish cooking.

Kitchen roles date way back for mothers and daughters

Kitchen roles date way back for mothers and daughters

1). Start with a clean, well organized kitchen: I always keep my kitchen spotless in between cook dates, but I’m not always as fastidious about organizing my pantry and fridge. When everything is in it’s place, cooking multiple meals at once runs much smoother, and you’ll be less likely to make a mess rifling through a cupboard looking for that tablespoon of flour you almost forgot, or spilling orange juice all over the fridge looking for that container of grated Parmesan you threw haphazardly back onto the wrong shelf. It’s also a great idea to double check the expiration dates as you do this, and be sure to toss anything out of date.

Mis en place

Mise en place

2). Mise en place: Prep all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. This is an invaluable time-saving tip for the Personal Chef Approach™ in general, but it will also help you avoid making unnecessary messes. Read through all the recipes you intend to prepare that day – then cut and marinate your meats, clean and chop all the herbs and vegetables, measure your liquids and dry ingredients etc., portioning everything out as you go (while keeping everything that should be refrigerated stored properly).

Be sure to clean as you go

Be sure to clean as you go

3). Clean as you go: Wipe up any spills as they happen, keep your work station clean, and try to clean your pans as you finish cooking each item. Let’s face it, the PCA™ makes cooking more pleasurable because you do it less often, and it does save bundles of time and money, but it can be exhausting to be on your feet cooking for 2-3 hours at once – none of us relish having to face an overwhelming sink full of pots and pans at the end of it all! Keep it manageable, and remember the rest of the week will be pots and pan free! Dinner goes from fridge to table in minutes, and the plates get thrown into the dishwasher even faster when your done.

The one and only time Tatjana ever cooked for me

The one and only time Tatjana ever cooked for me

Okay, I wrote the tips, and promise to follow my own advice, if Tatjana promises to make her yummy tofu recipe (the only meal she has ever cooked for me), so I can get a better photo of it than the one below. In the meantime who does the cooking and the clean-up in your home?
Tatjana's Tofu dish

Tatjana’s Soy-Chili Tofu with Portobello Mushrooms & Zucchini

My ex let slip that Tatjana is a really good cook – no doubt she was hiding this skill from me deliberately, because she loves for me to make all her old favorites when she comes home. She also loves being pampered. I’m not big on New Years celebrations, so we made a bargain… if old “Scrooge of New Years Eve” would accompany her to a party, she would make dinner for me on New Years Day. It was MY turn to be pampered!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


Tatjana's Soy-Chili Tofu with Portobello Mushrooms & Zucchini

  • 24 ounces firm tofu (2 packages) drained
  • 3 medium zucchini sliced
  • 4 medium portobello mushrooms sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil divided
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes divided


Tatjana's Soy-Chili Tofu with Portobello Mushrooms & Zucchini

  1. Slice drained tofu in half lengthwise, then again width wise for 4 equal pieces. Place on a plate, and pour soy sauce over the top. After 5 minutes, turn so the other side of the tofu soaks up the soy.
  2. Meanwhile, in another large saute pan, heat the remaining oil, add remaining clove of garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add tofu (reserving the soy marinade for later). Sprinkle with remaining chili flakes. Brown the tofu for 2 minutes per side, then add reserved soy sauce from marinade, and cook a further 1-2 minutes.
  3. Serve tofu on top of mushrooms and zucchini, and pour any remaining sauce over the top.

Serving Suggestions

Tatjana serves this with boiled new potatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper, but this would also be great with any rice of your choice.

Heat To Eat

Vent lid of container and heat in microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes, stirring midway; or heat in a large skillet over medium heat until heated through, about 12-15 minutes.


This would be great with teriyaki sauce in place of the soy sauce.

Still a team in the kitchen today

Tatjana and I are still a great team in the kitchen today

Want to experience how the Personal Chef Approach™ can save you time and money, help you stick to your New Years resolutions to eat healthier, and make it possible to enjoy dinner together in the comfort of your own home again? Like me on Facebook, and click on the  FREE SAMPLE app to get your first month’s membership free!

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  • January 18, 2013
    4:09 pm

    Your system works in my home too. My eldest daughter is studying cooking,catering in high school and now tells me how things should be done! I cook and then we do the dishes together, she dries as I hate it! She recently made spinach and ricotta cannelloni for was delicious! It was hard for me to let someone loose in MY kitchen!!
    Must say I love the kitchen x

    • January 19, 2013
      2:08 pm

      I say kick back, and enjoy those yummy meals made by your daughter, Colleen – or better still make them together. Tatjana may pretend to hate the kitchen, but I know she enjoys the conversations we have when we cook together.

  • January 19, 2013
    1:32 pm

    There is just something about mom’s cooking that is unbeatable. I wish I would have had the opportunity to get my mom’s recipes and techniques before she passed away. She never let me do any kitchen clean up. She always told me that as a woman I’d be spending countless hours in the kitchen, so I didn’t need to start younger than necessary. She was sure right! Although oddly enough I’ve grown up to LOVE cooking and cleaning both! The team work approach you and Tatjana have worked out seems ideal to me. If only I could go back and capture some of that lost time with my mom. Just simple chit-chat around the kitchen sink sounds like absolute heaven! 🙂

    • January 19, 2013
      2:06 pm

      Kim – that is precisely why I drag Tatjana into the kitchen with me (sometimes moaning and groaning about being there), because I know she will remember those times fondly long after I am gone. That, and who doesn’t love a little extra free labor 🙂

  • January 20, 2013
    3:08 pm

    I have a few fond memories of me being in the kitchen with my own mum, in matching aprons! I felt so grown up to be allowed to help in whatever capacity I could even if it was only stirring batters or soups. I learned some cooking from my stepmother, but those times in the kitchen were memorable for the wrong reasons. So, word to the wise – if you want your children to grow up and enjoy cooking and making it a time to connect, don’t be growling at them about how they know so little, that just wait until they are older and see what the world is all about, how stupid they are and so on. I grew up feeling like cooking was a real hassle and wanted to avoid conflicts and that meant avoiding the kitchen. It’s taken me years to get past that mentality. If it wasn’t for Jewels, I’d still be in that rut and spinning my wheels getting nowhere!

  • January 31, 2013
    7:38 am

    I am finally making this recipe tonight. 🙂
    What I am wondering: are those olives, I see on the picture? Can I put those in, too? Or are they only for the picture? 😉

  • January 31, 2013
    9:47 am

    Hi Thamar – no, those are red, white, and purple new potatoes. You can put anything you like in any recipe, but think about the ingredients, and how those flavors might taste together. I’m not use I would with the soy sauce the recipe calls for, but if you try it – let me know what you think?

  • January 31, 2013
    1:05 pm

    I just finished eating dinner, and it was delicious! It took getting used to (Lets face it; I am a meat-eater.), but I absolutely will do this again.
    I added a little bit of sugar, as the soy sauce has a bit of a certain (strong) taste, that has never really been to my liking (When I just had moved out of my parents house, I once cooked a meal with too much soy sauce, which has ruined the taste a bit for me), but I also want to try it with Teriyaki sauce, as you suggested, in the future.
    And the soy sauce has also prevented me from overcooking the zuchini and mushrooms.

    • January 31, 2013
      1:27 pm

      Oh Thamar – it gives me such pleasure when I hear people push themselves to try things they thought they disliked, and start to broaden their culinary horizons. i’m so glad you tried it and liked it! This was the first tofu dish I ever liked too, so Tatjana gets the kudos for that. Tofu does need something to give it flavor, because on it’s own it is just s gelatinous insipid flavor. The soy adds the flavor and the vegetables add much needed texture. Do try the teriyaki sauce, I’m sure you will enjoy it.