Adapting to Less Time

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp, Chickpea and Roast Asparagus

For the first two to three years of, I was partially or fully unemployed. My hours were spent writing cover letters, resumes and recipes. The food blog enabled me to have a routine, stay creative and hopeful. The recipes created during that time period, continue to be my favorite meals.

During that time period, I recall a conversation with several friends about how process food isn’t as fast as preparing a home cook meal. Then there’s a lone voice among us who disagreed with us as she explained, “…for working families… it’s difficult to prepare healthy meals, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or a food co-op…” I was curious about her statement. Despite being unemployed, I wondered if my concept of time management around healthy eating was within the realities of single parents and families working full-time.

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp, Chickpea and Roast Asparagus

In Spring of 2012, I accepted a full-time design position. The following summer, I discontinued my local CSA membership, because the time spent cleaning the vegetables on a weekday was time-consuming and the pick up locations and times didn’t fit into my new schedule. Today, visits to the farmer’s markets are almost never. Grocery shopping is weekly, and I’m careful to avoid multiple trips to several locations for ‘special ingredients,’ such as a butcher, tea and coffee shops, bakeries, seafood markets and scheduling time to pick-up organic produce. I’ve always known it’s time-efficient to plan a weekly menu, but I’ve returned to buying groceries in one store.

My recipes are changing, too. These days, I’m relearning how to cook hearty meals within 30 minutes, and that’s including prepping time. My only day to leisurely create recipes is Sunday, but there’s an hour dedicated for preparing ingredients for weekday meals, such as cleaning and seasoning chicken breasts, roasting or steaming vegetables and cooking grains.

Asparagus and Wholewheat Pasta

My grocery list includes frozen pre-cooked shrimp to quickly thaw and add to salads for instant protein. A container of hummus is always bought, because it’s quickly used for an open-face breakfast sandwich with toasted bread, a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper and occasional avocado slices. The other day, garlic powder was purchased to reduce the time of peeling and mincing fresh garlic. Cheese is brought grated, crumbled or slivered to reduce the preparation time of a dish. Instead of visiting a fish market during the weekday, frozen fish fillets are stored in the freezer (Most seafood arrive in grocery stores are frozen). Instead of waiting 45 minutes to cook brown rice, Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro and barley are equal healthy substitutions. And, store-bought harissa sauce is my favorite condiment. It’s instant flavor for stir-fry greens, egg or pasta dishes.

Last Spring, a Harissa Tomato Sauce dish with roast shrimp, asparagus and chickpeas was made. If planning this pasta as part of a weekday meal, save time by roasting asparagus, precooking the pasta, and dicing the celery and onion. Once all ingredients are prepped, it’s an effortless weekday recipe.

I now understand my friend’s opinion about working people having less time to leisurely create healthy recipes. I look at households with kids in awe (parents are true superheros), because I’m always learning new tips to improving my time management between working, exercise, meal planning and getting a good night’s worth of sleep… for only my boyfriend and I. Although, I feel blessed to have have a full-time job, I miss the farmer’s market, because it was a fundamental source of creativity. However, looking at my weekday calendar, I see fewer hours to prepare time-consuming recipes, but in those small spaces I’m quickly adapting to creating healthier ‘fast-food’ recipes.

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp, Chickpea and Roast Asparagus


  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus; ends trimmed and cut into about 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp. red balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil; as needed
  • Sea Salt; as needed
  • Fresh black pepper; as needed
  • 1 lb. uncooked shrimp; peeled, deveined and clean
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves; minced
  • ¾ lb. whole-wheat fusilli pasta; cooked al dente according to manufacturer’s directions
  • 2 celery stalks; finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion; finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • (Optional) Ground red pepper; as needed
  • ¼ cup pasta water or low-sodium chicken stock
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup mild or spicy harissa
  • 1-14 can of plain chopped tomatoes
  • About 8 twigs of fresh thyme tied with twine
  • 1-14 can chickpeas; strained and rinse with water
  • ½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Toss shrimp with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 minced garlic, sea salt and fresh black pepper. Set shrimp aside.
  2. Toss asparagus, red balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt and black pepper together on top of a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes or until asparagus is tender and crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pasta according to the manufacturer’s directions. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water. Strain and rinse pasta with cold water. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Gently mix asparagus and pasta together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  5. Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in red onions and celery. Season with sea salt, black pepper, red pepper, smoked paprika for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the rest of the garlic for about 20 seconds.
  6. Stir in the pasta or chicken stock. Then follow with the red wine and harissa. Let liquids slightly reduce and adjust seasoning. Add tomatoes, thyme and chickpeas. Reduce temperature to low and cover the skillet. Simmer for about 15 minutes and occasionally stir the sauce.
  7. Stir in the shrimp and let cook until opaque and slightly undercooked for about 3 to 4 minutes (the shrimp will continue cooking once removed from the heat).
  8. Stir in the parsley and toss with the pasta and asparagus.
  9. Top each serving with feta cheese and enjoy.

Spicy Tomato Sauce with Shrimp, Chickpea and Roast Asparagus




3 thoughts on “Adapting to Less Time

  • October 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    This looks really good and hearty! Totally Pinning.

  • July 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm


    Here! Here! Here!

    You just kept banging the nails on the head with this post. I too started our blog when I moved to Dubai and was in transition in my career. Once I got a full time job, the blog suffered (as did i). I found that while my income increased, my personal satisfaction declined.

    It is hard to work full time and pay attention to the personal things that truly breathe life into our spirits. That is the challenge of the corporate treadmill especially when you sign up for it full time.

    We now have an infant in the mix and even though I work from home, I still work FT and take care of bubs alone while the Chef half works his usual double shift. It is HARD. And if you do not have the awareness to stop yourself and put measures in place to guide you back some semblance of order, it is easy to just forget yourself and give over to the convenience industry when you are exhausted beyond compare, short of time and hanging on by a thread.

    That is the modern day dilemma of the working person.

    Happy you have found an adjustment that works.

  • July 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Gorgeous Dish!!! I’m finding that though I am not working outside of our home, the management and care of a 7 month has superseded my personal lingering over food blogs and magazines for inspiration, entire days spent in the kitchen, or casually strolling through the farmers’ markets. Recipes like these, are paramount!!! It is an important lesson to me that gorgeous, healthy, quicker meals can be rich in flavor and generous towards your time.

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