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 which included 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 been wanting to share photos of the kitchen and pantry for a good two years now but it kept getting put off.

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



Considering it was new construction, sharing photos of the empty “before” construction space isn’t much fun. 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 6 months prior to our kitchen cabinets being ready (or the upstairs being complete in general), we lived in an unfinished basement (my future studio space) with no carpet or kitchen.

Here’s my make-shift 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- JannaWilliamson.com

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.

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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.


P.S. Please note that Piano Pantry is an affiliate with LastPass. All this means is that if you purchase using my link I will get a small percentage back without it costing you extra. This helps offset the fee of running this blog. Thank you in advance for using my link!


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 for those types of student gifts. She has lots of great homemade ideas over 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 over the years has been a homemade hot chocolate mix.

Let’s take an important poll first: Do you call it “Hot Cocoa” or “Hot Chocolate”? Put your vote in the comments! 🙂

Since I cycle through different gifts each year so students who are with me for a long time don’t always get the same thing, I’ve actually only done this twice!

Hot chocolate is such as fun idea though because what kid doesn’t love hot chocolate?


Making Homemade Hot (You Fill in the Blank! 🙂 )

Consider recipes that are 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.

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. 

What they all have in common:

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

(P.S. the only thing Cook’s Country adds is white chocolate chips and a bit of salt.)

Since the CC 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 is what 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 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:

This may be a fun little post to share with my readers! I love food and cooking but don’t incorporate enough of it on this blog as I would like besides linking to recipes and products I love in the weekly Friday Finds.

So, here we are!


What’s So Special About Trader Joe’s?

This niche grocery store is especially known for its low prices on 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 and 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 like to take my time and slowly peruse the freezer section, taking in each item. Being that all of their product branding is completely different than the main-stream brands you are used to seeing in a regular grocery, it can feel a little strange (and perhaps overwhelming) at first looking at a whole new line of products.


My Trader Joe’s Shopping List

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 do like to keep in-stock at home.

Besides my repeat list, I also try to buy half-a-dozen new items each time as well. “The Kitchn” website frequently posts fun articles on Trader Joe’s (I link to several of their articles at the end of the post). My shopping list is always inspired by what I read there as well as information gleaned from the fun Trader Joe’s Podcast.

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

My list would likely be longer if I had been able to be a more regular customer but this is what I have thus far.

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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 @food.fun.with.amy


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 such as 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!


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

The first couple of weeks back to teaching are always a little hectic. We’re trying to enjoy the final days of Summer, holding on to every last inch of that time until we have to throw ourselves completely into the new year.

The months of January and August have always been the months we eat at home almost exclusively. In January it’s quiet and dark, and there’s not a lot of extra activities going on and in August, I don’t have students half the month so I’m home more and have time to cook dinner like normal people.

Things are about to get crazy this week though and will continue that way until the second week of October. I won’t bore you with my details as you have enough going on of your own.

Since many of us are in the same boat as we get things going, I thought I would share half-a-dozen quick and easy recipes that can make your back-to-teaching life easier.

Most of the recipes will also allow you to enjoy end-of-summer produce and will avoid turning on the oven. You’re not going to find a crockpot or soup recipe in this bunch. It’s too early for that – I’m not ready!


Six Easy “Back-To-Teaching” recipes

Panzanella Bread Salad (Simply Recipes)

If you’ve never had Panzanella bread salad with your beautiful, lush, red, juicy August tomatoes, you have not experienced life.

Can you see what I mean?

While you’re making the salad, throw pork chops in a cast iron skillet seasons simply with S&P and call that a meal.

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