When the Rolling Stones sang about Mother’s Little Helper back in 1966, the shaggy-haired band was not-so-slyly referencing the popularity of Valium amongst the housewives of the day. Too bad the flustered moms of yesteryear didn’t have Retro Dinner Diva on their speed dial—it’s better to be addicted to casseroles than pills.
Retro Dinner Diva, aka Stephanie Eakins, comes to the rescue of harried parents all around the capital city. Swooping in with casseroles, desserts, and side dishes that are all freezer-ready, kid-friendly, and adult-approved, Eakins has been saving the dinner day since she launched Retro Dinner Diva in 2013.
“I get so many nice emails,” she gushed, “saying things like, ‘you just changed my life,’ ‘I don’t dread coming home anymore,’ ‘even my son is happy with the food.’”
Sanity-saver Eakins knows that people are busier than ever; parents are running around and too often fast food or eating out takes the place of home-cooked meals. She knows all this because she ran the meal gauntlet herself as a working mom. “When I was young, it was normal for everyone to eat together,” she said. “Now, people eat at different times, don’t have a lot of time, or they don’t like to cook, but people do want to go back to basics; they know eating together is important.”
Dinner was a big challenge to pull together for her family, Eakins explained. Between the after-school activities of her two daughters, jobs, and time constraints, it was difficult, but she pulled it on the daily. “I remember sitting at gymnastics practice and women around me were asking me how I found the time to put dinner together,” she said. “It was a lot of planning, crockpot meals … I’d spend Sundays prepping for the week.”
Growing up in a family where everyone loved to cook left its mark on Eakins, both as a cook herself and as a cheerleader for family dinners. One grandmother farmed, making fresh vegetables and fruits the mainstay of scratch-made meals of love. The other grandmother leaned Southern with her creations; bacon grease being a favorite ingredient. “I had this great mix of both worlds,” she said. “And my dad loved to cook—he always had dinner ready.” Twice a month, the family would travel to Chillicothe for dinner with a grand collection of aunts, uncles, and cousins. “Great food and great memories,” she said. One of the cook’s earliest food memories is of doughnut holes and snow. “Before we moved into Columbus, we lived in Waverly in a log cabin—a real log cabin, Laura Ingalls-type place—and there was no one around … it was during the blizzard of ’78 or ’79 and I was helping my mom make doughnut holes and she went outside to gather up snow to make ice cream.”
And then there was the love affair with the Easy Bake Oven. “I loved cooking on my own,” she recalled. “All sorts of cakes.” Yet, as an adult, Eakins went the corporate route, even though her heart was in cooking, for her family and for others. The idea for Retro Dinner Diva hung like a supermoon in her mind for a long time before she hit the kitchen for good. “I spent five years thinking, planning, building recipes, and I decided one day—I’m gonna do this. My parents died in their 40s and when I was turning 40 a couple of years ago, I had an epiphany, and thought about how life was short, and I was passionate about this, so I just did it.”
In addition to working with her sister to make and deliver the meals, Eakins throws monthly Freezer Meal Parties at The Commissary. Usually themed, such as Crock-n-Roll, Get Your Grill On, or Figure Friendly, the event welcomes a small army of cooks that stroll in with coolers rolling behind them. Together, the group creates family-sized meals from the ingredients that Eakins has prepped. A social event as a much as a culinary one, the Freezer Meal events are the new Tupperware party.
To learn more about Retro Dinner Diva’s services, visit the website at retrodinnerdiva.com. For more meal-prepping/planning services, see page next page.