European Food Inspirations: Nine Easy Recipes to Make At Home

As 2022 quickly closes, I wanted to squeeze one final blog post in! This one, in particular, because it is the last of four things I wanted to share with all my teacher friends from our 28-day journey through Europe in the fall of 2022.

The first was a fun list of random observations and experiences – especially useful for anyone looking to do some travel in Europe.

The second was Episode #42 of The Piano Pantry Podcast, where I shared the entire story of the month of adventures, including when I lost my passport!

The third was a glimpse into 500 years of fabulous keyboard instruments we viewed at the Music Instruments Museum in Brussels, Belgium.


The final thing I thought it would be fun to share in this post is a list of nine food items we discovered in our travels you could easily make in your own home!

While we had lots of excellent food, I tried to choose simple, delicious, and unique items you might easily enjoy.


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A Tour of Amy’s Kitchen and Pantry

If you’ve been around here for a while, you may already know that in recent years, my husband and I built a new house, including moving my piano studio into the basement and out of commercial space.

My husband did a lot of the work while still working a 40-hour workweek, so the bulk of the build took around three years.

Since cooking is my other mojo, I’ve wanted to share photos of the kitchen and pantry for a good two years, but it kept getting put off.

After finally capturing some good photos for our cabinet builders to display, I had no more excuses. It’s finally time for a tour!



Sharing photos of the empty “before” construction space isn’t much fun considering it was new construction. What is interesting, though, is to see what we went through leading up to completion.

Since our deadline to move out of our rental house was six months before our kitchen cabinets were ready (or the upstairs being complete), we lived in an unfinished basement (my future studio space) with no carpet or kitchen.

Here’s my makeshift kitchen.

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Music Teacher Eats: MTNA 2022 Edition

This past week was the 2022 Music Teachers National Conference. Since it was virtual, a few teacher friends and I decided to come together so as to not miss out on one of the best aspects – spending time together. Plus, it’s easier to feel more enveloped in the virtual experience when you’re not alone and easily distracted by other life happenings.

How to Make Music Teacher Friends (The Piano Pantry Podcast) – 12 min.

As someone who loves to cook and host, I was quick to volunteer our home as the location. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to come together with other teacher friends. It’s practically like a spa day as you walk away feeling rejuvenated, refreshed, and newly motivated!

Call me crazy, but since I usually cook for two, I considered cooking for five for multiple meals and days as a fun opportunity. Of course, my teacher friends were happy to oblige. 🙂 Meet my friends and guests:

Joy Morin – Color in My Piano

Christina Whitlock – Beyond Measure Podcast

Janna Williamson-

In this post, I thought it would be fun to share all the recipes I cooked over the course of the week (at least those that are available online).

For more recommend recipes, visit the first post in this series: Music Teacher Eats: Fall Edition.

Cooking Demonstration at Piano Connect 2022

Hello! Just a quick announcement to let you know that I giving a cooking demonstration for the 2022 Piano Connect Virtual Conference.

I’m honored to be stepping in at the last minute, filling in for The Hungry Musician who normally works with Paula Dreyer on the food side of this virtual conference.

Hope to see some of you there as we make fluffy omelets together this Saturday, January, 29 @ 11:00 am PST.

If you’re interested in registering for the conference, you can do so here:

Register for Piano Connect


Big Discounts on My Favorite Recipe and Password Manager Apps

I recommend many resources and tools here on Piano Pantry to help you be more organized and productive in your personal and studio life. Find a list of those resources here: Recommended Resources.

Two of those are LastPass, my favorite password manager, and Paprika, my favorite recipe app.

Both of them have big sales going on this week.


All four versions of Paprika are on sale from now until the end of November.

Sale prices will vary by country, but the currently displayed prices on their website, the App Store, and the Play Store are indeed the correct prices.

Some of my favorite features of this app are:

  1. You can purchase a desktop version
  2. It has a built-in browser, so you can browse the internet directly in the app and download recipes directly from there
  3. You can download a browser bookmarklet so you can download recipes from the browser you use on a daily basis.

iOS and Android apps are currently 40% off:
Paprika 3 for iOS
Paprika 3 for Android

MacOS and Windows apps are currently 50% off:
Get Paprika 3 for macOS
Get Paprika 3 for Windows


Gone are the days of repeating the same password over and over or using the same one but changing one number every month, or, like my dad, writing it down on a half-dozen index cards (oh my!).

Some of my favorite features of the premium version of Last Pass are:

  1. Get access to all devices.
  2. Generate passwords that are secure and customizable
  3. It’s more than just for passwords! Save:
    • Health Insurance Informaiton
    • Drivers Licenses
    • Credit Cards
    • Bank Accounts
    • Wi-Fi Passwords

Save and secure personal information in one location.


Get 25%

On November 23-29th, 2021, LastPass is running a 25% off sale for annual plans.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity!

Signup here.


My Perfect Homemade Student Christmas Gift: Hot Cocoa

If there’s one type of gift you will likely never see me give students, it’s a hand-made craft. Don’t get me wrong; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those types of gifts – I think they’re fabulous. I am just a TERRIBLE crafter!

Luckily, we have Joy Morin at for those types of student gifts. 🙂 She has many great homemade ideas on her site, including paper ornaments, glass ornaments, and mittens.

What my students WILL get from me is some kind of baked good or food item. My favorite is a homemade hot chocolate mix because what kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?!

Let’s pause for an important question.

Do you call it “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”?

I usually say, “Hot Chocolate.” I only used “Cocoa” in the title because it was shorter. Ha! LOL

Tell me what you call it in the comments! 🙂

This post will show you how to put together this fun homemade gift!


Recipe Considerations

Since I’m not exactly a recipe website, I’m not sharing the recipe directly but have recommended ones online you can use (like I do!)

My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Country, but since it’s a paid recipe service, here are some other versions you could try from Pioneer Woman and AllRecipes. 

Consider recipes made with powdered milk, so students only have to add hot water.  Along those same lines, I would advise you to not do the layered-type cocoa mix where you have to dump the whole container into a pot to mix.

What all these recipe mixes have in common:

  • Dry milk powder
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Confectioner’s sugar (dissolves better than white sugar)

(P.S. The only addition to this Cook’s Country is white chocolate chips and a bit of salt.)

Since the Cook’s Country recipe uses white chocolate chips, they have you mix the recipe in a food processor to get the chips into smaller pieces so they will dissolve better/quicker.

Unfortunately, this happens when you process dry powder stuff in a food processor. It’s a blustery mess! LOL

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Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals (Fall Edition)

Are you a piano teacher (or independent music teacher of any instrument?) 

Does the schedule of your occupation create obstacles in food planning/meals making you feel like you’re in a rut or frequently in “survival” mode?

Then, this post is for you!

Thanks to my good friend, Christina Whitlock, creator of the Beyond Measure Podcast, I’ve found a fun way to pull food fun into the mix a little more here!

Here’s a snippet into a text between the two of us several months ago (shared with permission 🙂 ).

Can you relate to her sentiments? 🙂

Thanks to her, I’m launching this new blog post series called “Music Teacher Eats: A Week of Easy, Healthy Meals”. You can look forward to a new edition of this series coming out at least once a season (fall, winter, spring, summer) and possibly even some holiday versions.

Before we continue, a few disclaimers:

First, I will do my best to meet Christina’s request of easy, healthy, and can be done in 30 minutes or less after teaching (assuming a little prep work has been done 🙂 – see the post: Food Prep and the Studio Schedule for more on that!)

Second, as we all know, the words “easy” and “healthy” can mean completely different things to different people. I vow to do my best to take an overall general approach to both of these words and will also keep in mind that some of you (unlike me) may be serving families with kids.

Third, all of the recipes I suggest here are ones that I have tried and love. I may not be a recipe website, but I cook A LOT and am really picky about quality recipes. Rest easy that everything I share today is a recipe worth keeping. 

Fourth, while I cook a LOT from the subscription sites America’s Test Kitchen and Milk Street, I avoided including recipes from them. (It was hard though because their recipes are soooo good!) All recipes included can be found for free online.

I hope you find something in this suggested weekly meal plan that’s new, exciting, and most importantly, useful in easing the burden of meal planning as a studio music teacher!

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Food Prep and the Studio Schedule

Are you wondering why in the world you’re seeing a food post on a piano teacher blog? 

Well, first of all, if you don’t know me already, besides piano teaching, one of my life passions is cooking.

Second, we eat, right?

Third, as we can all attest, the schedule of the independent music teacher can make mealtime a struggle – especially if you have a family. After school and early evening is prime time for both music lessons AND asking the universal question, “what’s for supper?” If you’re the person in your family who’s generally in charge of mealtime, this can make for a real struggle!

Today, I want to share with you my three biggest food prep tips for keeping your meal-time work efficient and organized. Then, when you walk out the door of your studio late in the evening, you can breathe easy knowing dinner will be ready in a jiffy.

Also, stay tuned for a new post series coming up called Music Teacher Eats for meal plan ideas that are easy, healthy, and quick to prepare!

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My Trader Joe’s Shopping list

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that she was going to Trader Joe’s for the first time in a long time, and did anyone have items they LOVED she should add to the list?

After commenting using a quick cut and paste of my Trader Joe’s shopping list I keep in Evernote, it hit me: I need to share this list with you guys since we talk about food occasionally here on the Piano Pantry blog!

Healthy Snacks for Long Teaching Days

Back-to-Teaching: Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead

Healthy Go-To Recipes from All Over the Web

In this post, I’ll give you a brief explanation of why Trader Joe’s is popular, share a couple of sources where I frequently get ideas for fun things to try from there, and finally, my own shopping list!


What’s So Special About Trader Joe’s?

This niche grocery store is especially known for its unique food items, quirky culture, cozy size, and special experience. There’s something about shopping there that just feels good.

For me, the unique food items are the biggest reason I shop there; that feature is best displayed in their freezer section. Never have I been one for buying pre-made meals of any kind in a regular grocery store because they’re never that good (or that healthy, for that matter).

Trader Joe’s does it differently, though.

When I go there, I take my time and slowly peruse the freezer section, taking in each item. Being that all of their product brandings are completely different than the mainstream brands you are used to seeing in most grocery stores, it can feel a little strange (and perhaps overwhelming) at first looking at a whole new line of products.


Everyone Loves Sharing Trader Joe’s Favorites

The list I’m sharing with you today is items that I love. They may not make it into my cart every time I go, but I consider them winning products – many of which I like to keep in stock at home.

Besides my repeat list, I also try to buy half-a-dozen new items each time. Sharing favorite items at Trader Joe’s happens a lot on the internet.

31 Trader Joe’s Products You Can’t Live Without (What’s Gaby Cooking)

A couple of places I frequently get ideas from are The Kitchn website (and yes, it’s spelled “Kitchn”) and the Trader Joe’s Podcast.


The 10 Things I Always Buy from Trader Joe’s for Breakfast (The Kitchn)


My Trader Joe’s Shopping List

Keep in mind I’ve only been lucky to have a Trader Joe’s nearby (well, 35 minutes away) for the past year. Before that, I only got to go a couple of times a year when I was in Indianapolis (90 minutes away) – usually for my state music teacher’s board meeting! Ha!

My list would likely be longer if I could be a more regular customer, but this is what I have thus far.


  • Classic Creamy Hummus (light blue lid) 
    • I find the large container of Trader Joe’s hummus to be too garlicky
  • Chorizo
  • Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls
  • Lentil Soup with Ancient Grains


  • Authentic Greek Feta Cheese in Brine
  • Ovoline Whole Milk Fresh Mozzarella
  • Unexpected Cheddar (#1 favorite!)
  • Gruyere
  • Asiago
  • Goats cheese
  • Light String Cheese


  • Dark Chocolate-Covered Cherries
  • Dried Apricots
  • Chocolate Coconut Almonds
  • Black Mission figs
  • Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
  • Plantain Chips and Crispy Plantain Slices
  • Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  • Milk/Dark Chocolate Almonds
  • Triple Ginger Snaps
  • Fig Bites (like Fig Newtons, but even better!)
  • Soup & Oyster Crackers


  • Frozen Mango
  • Frozen Organic Blueberries
  • Cauliflower Gnocchi & Gorgonzola Gnocchi
  • Roasted Corn
  • Petite Peas 
  • Gyoza Pork Potstickers
  • Mandarin Orange Chicken
  • Vegetable & Chicken Fried Rice
  • Vegetable Spring Rolls


  • Mini Cheesecake Cones
  • Macaroons 
  • Brownie Coffee Crisp Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Croissant (Plain – I actually don’t care for the chocolate ones and have yet to try the almond ones.)


It’s Not All Good/Perfect

In reality, while there are a million reasons (and items) to love from Trader Joe’s, but like any product or grocery – it’s not all perfect. 

Besides keeping a list of items I love, I also track items I tried but wouldn’t necessarily buy again. Rarely is it because the product is bad – it’s more that I didn’t especially love it.

I don’t know that it’s useful to share my “don’t-buy-again ” list – I just want to encourage you to keep one yourself – especially if you aren’t able to go there frequently as it can be easy to forget from trip to trip, which items you liked and didn’t like!


Your Turn!

Now, tell ME: What are some of YOUR must-buy items from Trader Joe’s?

Pretty please?

Share in the comments!


Healthy Snacks for Long Teaching Days

As teaching hours increase and stress levels spike due to the new online music lesson setting, you may be experiencing the inclination to either stress-eat or have the need for small bits of sustenance to see you through the day.

Here are a few of my favorite healthy snacks and recipes.


Dried Fruit

So far, my favorite dried fruit brands have either been Made in Nature or Trader Joe’s.

Unfortunately, both of these are often either not available on Amazon or not available for as good of a price as you may find in the store.

Generally, I reach for unsweetened, unsulfured, and organic dried fruit. Sweetened dried fruit is almost always way too sweet and sugary (in my humble opinion).

That being said, when it comes to dried apricots, they can be tricky. Half the time, the unsweetened, unsulfured ones can be really hard and dry. These ones from Amazon are pretty good.



For the slightly more child-like side of you (or just for a change of pace) try fruit leather (a.k.a. grown-up “fruit roll-ups”)!

Stretch Island Fruit Leather (100% real fruit – no sugar added)

P.S. If you were at N.C.K.P. 2017, I handed these out like candy!



Homemade Granola Bars and Energy Bites

The Best Soft Granola Bars from Pinch of Yum.

P.S. I just made these two days ago. Don’t they look delish? Want to see more of my food photo fun? Follow me on Instagram


Other favorites include:

Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars from Smitten Kitchen

Oatmeal, Almond Butter Breakfast Cookies from Simply Recipes

Almond, Cherry, & Cacao Nib Breakfast Cookies from The Green Life

The Best Energy Bites from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

No-Bake Energy Bites from King Arthur Flour



Of course, we can’t go without mentioning chocolate! I usually go for the little individually wrapped ones like Dove Dark Chocolate. I also like Lindt 70% Cocoa bars and Dark Chocolate Almonds.


From Around the World

A couple of years ago, Nicola Canton shared several homemade recipes for super fast and healthy snacks for piano teachers on her website, Colourful Keys. Check those out as well!


What are some of your go-to snacks to keep the energy going? Share in the comments!