I did not cook this week. Not one.single.night.

On Monday, we went out to eat at The Olive Garden for my Dad's birthday.

On Tuesday, we ordered pizza while my father-in-law fixed my car.

On Wednesday, Sonny picked up the $6.00 dinners from Wegman's. I ate mine in about 15 minutes before rushing back to work for Back to School night.

On Thursday, I went straight to grad class after work and then straight to Bible study. I ate some grapes and cheddar goldfish in the car on the way there.

On Friday, we ordered take-out because we were absolutely exhausted. We ate it on the couch while watching DVR episodes of Top Chef and Project Runway. Then I went to bed at 10:00...on a Friday night.

Today, we went to a Hawaiian luau. They roasted a pig. The whole pig. It had an apple in its mouth. They hacked the whole thing up and served the shredded meat on hamburger buns. I ate some because I kept telling myself that the pork on my hamburger bun didn't come from the pig that was staring at me with an apple in its mouth. It actually tasted great. So did the cupcakes I brought that were a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Each cupcake had about 8,000,000 calories, but they were delicious. I'll have to share the recipe sometime.

I'd like to say that I'll cook tomorrow...but I just don't know. Lately, I've only been able to do one day at a time. I know I'll be cooking again soon because I can't not cook for very long.

So I confess that I didn't cook at all this week. And, you know what? I'm OK with that.

Doesn't everybody have weeks like that every once in a while?


Straight from the Garden

I haven't been very good at posting all my cooking class adventures, but we've been cooking up some marvelous fare.

A couple weeks ago I actually brought my camera to cooking class and got to take a few pictures of the delicious food we cooked together. Here is a picture of us signaling to Art (our teacher) that we've got everything under control:

We made several dishes from ingredients found in the garden. Here were my particular favorites...

Romas and Goats
~I don't really like the name of this recipe~

  • 1 cup panko*
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 11 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground back pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Roma (plum) tomoatoes
  • Pesto (somewhat optional...and I often use Classico's ready made pesto)
  1. Stir together panko, Parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Then stir in butter and set aside.
  2. Combine goat cheese, pepper, and sat in a small bowl.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and trim a small amount from the rounded edges (this gives them a flat part so that they can stand upright instead of roll around).
  4. Remove the seeds and pulp (we used spoons).
  5. Spoon about 2 tsp goat cheese mixture into each half.
  6. Dip tomato halves, upside down, in breadcrumb mixture, coating generously (if I remember right, we spooned the breadcrumb mixture on top of each tomato).
  7. Place each tomato right side up on an ungreased baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a serving platter and serve drizzled with pesto.
*Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs. They are large coarse breadcrumbs that are excellent for creating that perfect crispy topping. You can substitute toasted plain breadcrumbs.

Recipe from myrecipes.com

Zucchini Cakes
~A great recipe for using up zucchini~

  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (I do this in my food processor)
  • 1 pouch (6.5 oz.) cornbread mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • vegetable oil
  1. Place the shredded zucchini into a microwave bowl and cook on medium for 2 minutes; drain.
  2. Combine zucchini, cornbread mix, egg, and milk. Let stand 5 minutes.
  3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a pan and drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the hot oil.
  4. Cook 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. These are good when they are served alongside something with a sauce, as they are very good when dipped into something.
Recipe taken from the September 2009 edition of Woman's Day Magazine

Zucchini Ginger Cupcakes
~These were SO good~

  • 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (2 medium)
  • 3/4 cup mild olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mild honey
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh orange zest
  1. Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with liners.
  2. Pulse crystallized ginger in the food processor until finely ground, then add flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, zest, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Pulse until combined.
  3. Whisk together zucchini, oil, honey, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Then stir in flour mixture until just combined.
  4. Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until tester comes out clean, 20-24 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely.
  6. Beat together frosting ingredients with an electric mixer at high speed until combined well and becomes fluffy (3-5 minutes). Frost the tops of cooled cupcakes.
Cooking class is such a great way for me to unwind and spend time with people who love to cook as much as I do. I'm so fortunate to have the opportunity to take these classes! If you are interested, go to www.thekitchenworkshop.com

*Someone recently told me that I should post my pictures in a bigger format..thanks for the great advice :)


A Battle Conquered

*FYI: This is quite a long post. It's also much more personal then I tend to be on this blog. But I think it's an important story to tell. So, here I go...

I've hesitated to write this post. It's not easy to write about and I wouldn't do it if I didn't think that my words could possibly make a difference for somebody out there who is struggling.

I love food. I love making it. I love giving it to people. I love eating it.

It wasn't always that way. I actually grew up as a very picky eater. I enjoyed about 10 things and suffered through anything else I was forced to eat. I hated meat. I wasn't huge on vegetables. I loved grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets in the shape of stars and dinosaurs, alphabet oven fries, and pudding pops. I also loved Ritz crackers.

I didn't like to cook or even be in the kitchen when someone else was cooking. One time my Mom tried to get me to peel shrimp and I started to cry while I was doing it. They were so cold and slimy. I started gagging. Another time I tried making chicken and was so overwhelmed with how gross it was, I put plastic bags on my hands in order to touch it.

My weirdness about food wasn't just that it smelled and tasted and felt strange. My biggest issue was that...it was food.

When I was in sixth grade I suddenly became aware that my body wasn't the same as the girl who sat next to me. She was small framed and tiny. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't skinny. I started to feel "big" when I compared myself to others. The thought started following me everywhere I went. I would walk by windows and catch my reflection. "Why are you so big?" I would ask myself.

I started to cut back. At first, it was a good thing. Maybe a bowl of ice cream after dinner each night is not always the best idea. I was making healthy choices. I lost some weight and people responded.

"Look at you!" they'd say. "You are growing up to be such a pretty young lady". "You are growing so tall and thin...you look great!" There was nothing wrong with these compliments...but I interpreted them as: The smaller you get, the better you look.

I started cutting back more. And then I would cut back a little bit more. Pretty soon, I was watching every bite that went into my mouth. Food was bad.

As I began high school, it became a bit more intense. People around me were noticing that I was funny about eating and I started to feel defensive. I was paranoid that someone was going to make me stop dieting. My family started asking questions and I finally decided to re-work my game plan. That's when I started throwing up. It was perfect. I could eat whatever I wanted and then get rid of it. Everyone saw me eat, I got to enjoy junk foods, and my body didn't have to digest them.

I used to visualize the food going to different parts of my body. I became obsessed with getting rid of it before it reached my thighs, and stomach, and hips.

The secrecy and control were really addicting. It appealed to my ambitious personality. I'm very goal oriented and love working toward the completion of tasks. This fit me perfectly. I could set weight goals or track my calorie intake. Once I reached the goal, I would set a new one. I was never satisfied.

In the spring time of my freshman year in high school, I broke. I was getting overwhelmed by it all. I felt weak and faint all the time. My stomach hurt. I had terrible heartburn. I decided it was time to come clean. I told my parents that I needed help and I began an outpatient program at an eating disorder facility in Philadelphia.

My dear father drove me all the way into the city every morning and then turned around and went to work. Even though I was the one who told them I needed to go somewhere, I started resenting them. I wouldn't speak to him the entire way and would often barely mutter a goodbye before getting out of the car. I had all these emotions, and I couldn't sort them out.

When I got there, I had to take off all my clothes to get weighed so that I couldn't trick them by putting rocks in my pockets. We had to eat a certain number of calories each day or they made us drink protein drinks. If you refused to drink a protein drink, you would get a feeding tube. I drank the drinks.

If bread and butter were part of your meal, you had to use all the butter. That means if you didn't use the whole slab on your bread...you had to eat it. They let you have some control over what you ate because you could pick from a list. Each week, they upped your calories. Whenever I went to the bathroom, someone had to watch me.

Most of the people there were inpatient. I was lucky to be outpatient because most of them seemed miserable. There was a young girl named Emma. She was about 13 years old. She was very sick. She cut her arms and always found ways to trick them and get away with eating less. There was a pregnant women who was skin and bones. Her husband had her court ordered to be in the program. She was so sick that she couldn't see how much danger her baby was in because she refused to eat. There was an older woman who had abused laxatives for 20 years. She had to get multiple surgeries in an effort to help her regain the ability to go to the bathroom. There was a woman there who overate. She couldn't control her eating and weighed several hundred pounds.

The facility wasn't a bad place. It sounds scary, but they were trying to help me. Sometimes breaking the habits of an eating disorder can be kind of like detoxing. I had to re-learn how to eat and digest. I would feel bloated and sick after eating because I couldn't throw up. When I couldn't finish my meals, I would cry the entire time I swallowed down the protein drinks.

During the day I would go to individual therapy sessions, group therapy discussions, and various activities. We did art, music, and drama therapy. We had to meet with the dietitian. At the end of the program we had to design a healthy meal and cook it ourselves. We made tacos. I remember it vividly. When I was released from the program, they gave me this piece of paper with a big flower on it. The women in the program all wrote words of congratulations and encouragement on the petals.

I went back to high school and faced my peers. They knew where I had been and I was embarrassed. I began acting out my frustrations by drinking and smoking. I was soon found out by my parents and they intervened. I met with a counselor and began to make progress.

Throughout the next 7 years, I relapsed 3 times. The last time was in my sophomore year of college when I dropped over 20 pounds in 4 weeks.

I can't really remember when I decided that enough was enough. I wish I could remember if there was a moment that I just decided to stop. What I do remember is the moment I decided not to start again.

Two years ago I took a medication that ended up causing some weight gain. I was becoming more and more unhappy with my body and started feeling those old temptations rise up within me. And then I remember thinking to myself...no. No more. I had a husband and family who loved me just as I was. I had a classroom full of little girls who looked up to me as their teacher...their role model. I realized that God loved me and didn't want me to do this to myself.

I made an appointment and went to the doctor. I asked him to guide me in how to lose my unwanted pounds in a healthy way. And then I began to eat healthier. I watched my portions. I lost a few pounds here...and few pounds there. Over time, I gradually shed my unwanted weight.

In the meanwhile, I learned to cook. I discovered new foods and new ways to eat them. I took cooking classes and found out that making food was something I was good at. The girl who used to hate food loved to cook! My family still marvels at the irony of it all. They would never have guessed it would turn out this way. My parents come over for dinner and I'm slapping all sorts of slimy things around my kitchen in an attempt to make a delicious meal. No more baggies on the hands...no more crying...and no more gagging!

I don't just love to cook...I have a true passion for it. Making and eating delicious foods is one of the biggest pleasures in my life. It's the way I unwind after a long day. It allows me to have time that is all my own. I don't have to talk to anyone and nobody is talking to me. I can just be quiet with my thoughts and use my creativity to create something to be enjoyed. Cooking is the way that I show my love for people.

I named this post "A Battle Conquered" because I truly feel that this battle has been won. I have no desire to treat my body that way ever again. I want to honor and protect the body God has given me. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to have healthy and happy children someday.

Just because I have conquered this battle, doesn't mean that the journey is over. I am forever on a quest to take care of myself and make good choices...sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't.

The difference is...when I catch a glimpse of my reflection I think, "You're not perfect...you never will be. But you are worthy of being loved and accepted...just as you are."

*If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an eating disorder...please reach out for help. It's not hopeless. Talk to someone you trust or email me at cookingwithaplan@gmail.com