SIDNEY – For her newest cooking venture, Julie Casiano dug deep into the past.
Casiano opened Whole Heart Kitchen, a meal prep service developed specifically for older adults and people with special needs, in January. She’s catering to her clientele by designing menus based on foods her customers remember from long ago.
“We have brought all of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ cookbooks and recipe boxes,” Casiano said about how she and her employees create meals for Whole Heart Kitchen. “And we gather together, and we gather all of our ideas and our memories of things that we grew up eating, things that our mothers made, things that our grandmothers made. We went through all of your classic, old-school cookbooks.
“I even have my dad come and be part of that and give input on some of the things that he remembered that my mom would make that he especially liked, things that his mom would make that he grew up eating and really liked, too.”
Also the owner of The Meal Prep Life, Casiano has been in the meal prep business for four years. While The Meal Prep Life is available to anyone, Whole Heart Kitchen is designed for people most in need of help including older adults, people with physical and mental disabilities and people who recently were hospitalized.
Casiano was inspired to create a business catering to those most in need in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As people were confined to their homes to avoid the coronavirus, she would receive calls from individuals who asked her to deliver food from The Meal Prep Life to their parents and grandparents.
She was glad to help but thought some of the meal choices, often designed to be calorie conscious and carbohydrate conscious, weren’t always the right fit. She also worried the ordering system could be too burdensome for clients who often don’t use the internet.
“Through COVID and the whole pandemic and everything, what I really learned from it and what I saw was the need,” the Sidney resident said. “I really saw that there was a need for people to be able to get good, wholesome food.
“I felt like the menu and the types of food that we offered (at The Meal Prep Life) and the way that people ordered, the whole process, didn’t really fit the needs.”
So Casiano developed Whole Heart Kitchen, a meal prep service that features a simplified ordering process and foods catered specifically for her older clients.
“They have grown up on wholesome foods, home-cooked meals, things that are made from scratch, and that’s what I really wanted to focus on with creating this meal prep,” she said. “We make classic meals that they will remember from growing up and what their parents may have made them or what they’ve cooked for their families.”
The menu for Whole Heart Kitchen features a variety of dishes and constantly is changing. Soups and chowders were prominent during the winter months while in-season fruits and vegetables are gaining more prominence for the spring and summer.
This week’s meals include pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs; sloppy Joe, baked beans and potato wedges; Parmesan crusted chicken, rice and veggies; turkey Manhattan; and creamy beef and shells.
Clients get five meals each week, one of each of the offerings, for $35. Some customers choose to order 10 or even 20 meals a week and receive multiple portions of each. Sweet treats, such as this week’s special of peach crisp, also can be added to orders for $5.
The meals are cooked with fresh ingredients each week in Sidney by Whole Heart Kitchen’s staff. They don’t use any processed food nor any artificial ingredients or preservatives.
“All of my employees are mothers and wives that are phenomenal cooks that have been cooking this style and have been raised this way and just have a lot of experience in the kitchen with their own families,” Casiano said. “Just the real-life experiences, you know.”
All meals are packaged in microwavable containers. Meals can be refrigerated up to seven days or frozen to make them last longer.
Orders are picked up each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Whole Heart Kitchen, in the Sidney Plaza. Delivery also is offered to people in Sidney and the Anna/McCartyville areas for $3.
Whole Heart Kitchen serves approximately 100 clients a week and can accommodate more customers. The business is taking over the entire space that was occupied by The Meal Prep Life, which soon will move to the Sidney Towne Center.
“I’m taking that leap of faith because I feel very confident that this service is so needed in our community, that it’s going to continue to grow and grow and grow,” Casiano said.
For more information about Whole Heart Kitchen, contact Manager Carri Jones at 937-507-1896 or firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Casiano at 937-214-2816 or email@example.com.
More information also is available on the Whole Heart Kitchen Facebook group or by stopping by at 1544 Michigan St. in Sidney.
Reach the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-538-4824.