A Time Out

I haven't updated this blog in quite some time.  My life has required that I take a time out from cooking. This year has been incredibly challenging for me and I've written some of that story through a different blog.  If you are interested, here is the link:


My hope is that I will return to this blog at some point in the future.  I so enjoy sharing and documenting my cooking adventures and I look forward to doing that again someday.


I'm Still Cooking...Kind Of

Ok...so I've been MIA here on the ole' blog. I could give you a whole list of reasons, but here are the most prominent:

1. I'm taking a grad class right now that's on children and young adult literature. I have to read a novel a week (they aren't that long..but still) and write papers on each of them. I also have to read the textbook and take notes on that because there's going to be a midterm and a final. I haven't taken a written test since I was an undergrad...so I feel compelled to be prepared. Hence, I've spending a lot of my time reading and writing for this class.

2. My husband was studying for this big test he had to take for his graduate program. He needed the computer pretty much every night to study, so I didn't get on very much. His test was a month ago, so that's not even a good reason anymore.

3. I've been trying to simplify my life a bit and not feel so busy. I have grossly failed at this attempt, but I'm still trying! Instead of pressuring myself to blog or do other things on my to-do list, I've been trying to spend a little of each day doing something relaxing like reading or watching youtube videos of baby animals like puppies and pandas.

4. I've only been cooking on and off because of my schedule. Some weeks, I can cook almost every night. Other weeks I can barely cook one night because I have things to do every day after school. (For my individual definition of cooking, please continue reading below)

Even when I haven't been able to cook new and interesting recipes, I've coerced my husband to put food together for us. He doesn't cook, but he can do simple things like make pasta or saute shrimp. Sometimes I'll have him pick up a $6 dinner from Wegman's for each of us, or he'll get one of their ready-to-bake pizzas.

Let's talk about that for a moment, shall we? We moved to this area three years ago and have yet to find a pizza delivery place that has pizza we really love. Especially since we are obsessed with Wegman's ready-to-bake pizzas that they sell near their pizza shop. We always buy a plain cheese one and then add toppings. It ends up being cheaper than delivery and twice as delicious.

One of our favorite topping combinations is broccoli and mushrooms. I just toss fresh broccoli florets and fresh mushrooms with some olive oil and then scatter them on top of a plain cheese pizza. It comes out looking like this:

Doesn't that look delicious?

For me, there is a difference between "cooking" and "making dinner". I do not intend this to sound snobby in any way...I realize that these terms are the same for most people. However, cooking is my most treasured hobby. To me, "cooking" means to create something special or new, to experiment with ingredients, or to try new techniques. The purpose of cooking isn't just to feed myself or my husband, it also enriches my life and allows me to practice my skills in the kitchen. When I try out a new recipe or technique, I think of that as "cooking". When I brown some ground turkey and add a taco seasoning pouch to it, I think of that as "making dinner". When I am in the kitchen and my only goal is getting food into our exhausted bodies in the quickest and simplest way possible, I don't feel the same exhilarating feeling as when I am in the kitchen creating something new and/or unique.

So even though I haven't been able to "cook" as often as I'd like, I've still been able to feed us and prevent a nightly outing for fast food (although, I don't object to the occasional trip to Wendy's because their new fries are completely awesome...even though I feel guilty afterward)

While we're on the topic of french fries, I'd love to share a special eating ability I have. I don't consider myself a person who has a huge appetite. I certainly eat an average amount of food, but I tend not to eat a ton in one sitting. I'm not one for seconds or thirds.


I have, what must be, a genetic ability to eat massive amounts of french fries when given the opportunity. I could argue that I have that same ability when it comes to cookies n' cream ice cream, but it's not as extreme. French fries are kind of my nemesis when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, and kind of my best friend when it comes to my taste buds. I cannot remember a time in my life where the prospect of eating french fries hasn't completely thrilled me. I feel similarly about mashed potatoes, but french fries hold a special place in my heart.

I don't ever seem to get full while eating them, either. It's kind of a phenomenon since I get easily full eating almost everything else. I can eat way more ice cream than I should...but I definitely reach a limit where I can go no further (especially since I have a love/hate relationship with dairy products. They always seem like such a wonderful idea at the time of consumption, but the happiness fades about an hour later...) It's almost as if I have some sort of super natural ability to eat french fries continuously, but I know I can't and shouldn't. Is anyone else like me or is this truly a special ability of which I'm to be proud (in a kind of embarrassed way)?

Too bad I don't have this issue with a healthier food, but I didn't design my DNA so it cannot be helped. It would be a lot better if I was more like this girl:

Instead I'm more like this girl:

Now, if you are still reading this incredibly long and somewhat pointless post, I will reward you with a recipe that definitely qualifies as "cooking" in my book. It was fairly simple and completely delicious.

Chicken Fried Rice with Leeks and Cranberries
~A great way to use left over rice~

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 cups thinly sliced leek (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups cooked, chilled long-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon salt over chicken.

2. Add chicken to pan, and sauté for 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove the chicken from pan.

3. Add leek, black pepper, and remaining 5/8 teaspoon salt to pan; sauté for 4 minutes or until leek is tender and golden. Add leek mixture to chicken.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add rice, stirring well to coat rice with oil; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Stir rice mixture; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Stir in chicken mixture, cranberries, and sage. Add wine; cook for 2 minutes or until mixture is dry, stirring constantly.

Note: I used a rotisserie chicken instead of chicken thighs. I also used left over rice from the night before. If you don't have leftovers, make sure you chill the rice for 4 hours or more.

This recipe came from the January/February issue of Cooking Light Magazine.


Sweet Treat

I have the bad habit of needing something sweet after dinner. I know that many people have this habit, so I won't be too hard on myself. Sometimes I'm able to do fruit or yogurt, but that's mostly in the summer when berries are in season. Winter fruits just don't cut it for me when it comes to a sweet treat at night.

The January/February issue of Food Network Magazine has some ideas for lighter desserts and I found one of them to be particularly delicious. As far as cookies go, this recipe is quite figure friendly. I've made them a couple of times and found them to be a wonderful light dessert. I'll eat two cookies with a small glass of milk (actually, a small glass of Lactaid because I have...shall we say...trust issues with dairy).

Word to the Wise: Just because it's labeled as "light" doesn't mean you can eat a dozen at a time. I find that people (sometimes I'm included in this group) tend to think that if something is less calories, they can eat double or triple the serving size without consequences. Not so, my friends...eating sensible portions is a habit we should stick to no matter what we're eating.

So after that uplifting message...here's the recipe!

Oatmeal Cookies
~Easy and Delicious~

  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg and 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • (I actually combine chocolate chips and raisins to equal a cup and leave the walnuts out...you pretty much can put a cup of whatever combination of goodies you'd like to substitute)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk brown sugar, egg, and egg whites in a bowl.
  3. Whisk in the vegetable oil.
  4. Stir in the oats, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add chocolate chips, raisins, nuts (or a cup of whatever combination you want)
  6. Drop large spoonfuls onto lined baking sheets and gently flatten. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.


An Update for a Classic

I don't eat beef. This really isn't my choice...I just don't like it. I kind of wish I ate beef because then I could try all sorts of recipes I've always wanted to make. For now I just have to continue to swap chicken or turkey for beef whenever possible.

I've made turkey meatloaf in the past and it's turned out great, but it's fairly traditional in flavor. I recently came across a recipe in Giada De Laurentiis's cookbook, Giada At Home. I may think that Giada is kind of strange as a person, but her recipes are so incredibly delicious that I'd like to eventually own all her cookbooks.

This recipe combines some of my favorite ingredients and makes a regular old meatloaf into something really special! The only remark I would make is that it's a bit on the small side. It was fine for my husband and me, but I would double it if I were making it for guests.

Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
~Extremely flavorful~

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic-and herb-marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground turkey, preferably dark meat*
  1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 inch nonstick loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, eggs, olive oil, feta, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add the turkey and gently stir to combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Carefully pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan; it will fill the pan halfway.
  4. Bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 40-45 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 5 minutes. Use a paper towel to remove any fat that may settle on the surface of the meatloaf.
  6. Slice and serve.
*I only had lean ground turkey breast in my freezer so I used that. It worked out fine, but was rather pale. In the future, I will try a less lean package of turkey.

This meatloaf was so moist and flavorful...it really surprised us! Turkey can sometimes be dry and flavorless, so I always have ketchup nearby for turkey meatloaf, burgers, etc. (I actually have a bit of an unhealthy relationship with ketchup...basically, I am obsessed with it and put it on tons of things. I keep a back up bottle in my garage in case I ever find myself without.)

I've tried some other great recipes lately that I can't wait to share. I've been banned from the computer at night while my husband has been using it to study for a big test he has coming up. Once the test is over, I'd like to get some more posts up with my recent cooking adventures.