Tears welled up in her eyes as Cheryl Martin deftly wielded a stainless steel chefs knife through plump, white onions to make thin, half-moon slices.
" Its the onions; they always get me, " she said as she sprinkled sea salt and pepper and then drizzled organic extra virgin olive oil over the onion slices. She added some thyme and a bit of chopped garlic then put them into the oven for roasted French onion soup, one of her selections for the weeks menu in her healthy prepared-food business: Cheryls Good Karma Kitchen.
Clients choose from the weekly menu of organic soups, casseroles, snacks and desserts that she e-mails on weekends. Hungry clients order their choices by Tuesday. Cheryl cooks the meals Thursday and delivers the fresh, finished goods to her clients Friday.
While shes currently delivering only in the Upper Keys, she plans to expand to Marathon this summer.
Good Karma Kitchen came about when the former full-time caterer got involved in what she terms a more holistic lifestyle.
" I realized how important it is to eat well, " Martin said. So she developed some good, healthy recipes and sent out e-mails to friends, acquaintances and her yoga students.
" I really enjoy cooking, " Martin said as she layered slices of toasted French bread in a fresh tomato and spinach strata with feta and asiago cheeses. The savory aroma of the roasting onions permeated the kitchen as she continued to prepare some of the weekly selections, including two high-protein, low-calorie snacks an edamame dip and hummus-stuffed deviled eggs. She made dark chocolate almond and cranberry bark and mixed berry strudel for dessert.
While many of the Good Karma offerings are vegetarian, there is often a meat option offered for the casseroles, like adding diced ham to a broccoli and cheese casserole, and one of the soup choices often has seafood or meat, such as her crab and potato chowder and organic turkey sausage and gnocchi soup.
Plantation Key resident Leslie Gallagher, busy with a full-time job and a family, says Good Karma food is " more convenient, cheaper and healthier than eating out. "
Keys weekender Chris Wilson thinks Martins food is good enough to pretend its her own cooking.
" I tried to pass off one of her casseroles as my own at Christmas. The downside to this was that my mom asked me to make it again the next weekend.
" Its nice to have food waiting for me when I arrive on a Friday night. Her menu is varied and interesting and the food is healthy and delicious. "
Martin says she makes every attempt to keep her business as " green " as possible. After preparing the meals, she takes the scraps from the organic vegetables used out to the yard and dumps them into a compost pile. She hopes to source much of her produce from local (Redlands) growers in the future. Cheryl also uses eco-friendly containers to package her food.
" Sustainable and compostable " is printed on the side of the containers she uses for soups and dips. Recyclable aluminum baking pans hold her casseroles. " Ive even started using recycled aluminum foil, " Martin said.
Cheryls Good Karma Kitchen is based in Key Largo. She will deliver anywhere from Ocean Reef to Islamorada. She can be reached at cherylkeys40 @yahoo.com.
In the Lower Keys
Down on Summerland Key, Anne Rodamer sells homemade frozen dinners at her Sugarloaf Food Co.
" It is becoming a bigger part of our business, " she said. " Vacation renters near here like the convenience of having ready to heat and eat meals, " she said, " and locals like to keep some in their freezers for those days they come back home tired from a day of fishing. "
Rodamer offers four or five ready-to-heat dinner options; she usually has eggplant parmesan,lasagna with meat, chicken enchiladas and a chicken mushroom bake with artichokes and bacon.
" They are not low calorie, " Rodamer said, but " they are all fresh, homemade from scratch with no preservatives. " She changes around the menu from time to time, but always keeps the favorites.
The café is at 24171 Overseas Hwy on Summerland Key. Call
744-0631 or visit www.sugarloaffood.com.
In Key West, nutritionist, author and personal chef Donna Shields, in conjunction with Small Chef at Large, prepares healthy foods for delivery or cooks in the homes of customers. Call 967-1600 or visit www.donnashields.com.