By now I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m kind of into the whole cooking thing. There is no denying the love, well obsession really, I have for culinary delights and the learning process that goes into them. Here is a little more about how my inner “foodie” self-developed…
For starters I grew up with a Mom who put a home cooked meal on the table every night. She ran the gamut on different recipes and was never afraid of trying something different. My Dad has also been known to cook a good meal or two, but more than anything I believe shares the same passion I have for eating, haha. After high school and into my early twenties I worked my way through many restaurants, from the local Sports bar to an upscale Bistro, and picked up on a variety of cooking techniques and a strong appreciation for different cuisines. It really all started when I worked at Paolo’s in Georgetown, D.C. ; to this day my mouth still waters at the thought of their pasta dish, “Tortellini Rose.” I also spent a few years here and there traveling through parts of Europe and Scandinavia. And while I probably consumed more “beverages “, tee hee, than I did food , I’ll definitely never forget the incredible Tapas I savored while in Spain, or the beauty of delighting in an authentic slice of Pizza Margherita while sipping a glass of vino in the streets of Florence.
When I met my husband, (aka-my best critic and biggest fan), years ago we were the ones that went out and paid someone to cook meals like the ones I prepare now. We were young, childless, and if we wanted to spend all of our paycheck on dining out, we could.
^My ‘Tall Drink of Water’ and I doing one of the things we love the most.
^^ My man knows how to crack a Creme Brulee!
We joke, because we still spend about the same money on food, we now just spend it at the grocery store instead, haha, no but really our bank account hemorrhages at the grocery store! At any rate in all honesty when we first met my idea of a “home cooked” meal was preparing grilled chicken with a side salad. I didn’t trust myself enough to think outside the box, and I really didn’t enjoy following recipes. It wasn’t until after we got married in ’09 that I started to get creative in the kitchen. I’m sure this was partly due to the fact that he deployed just 6 months after we were married, (that’s right Army wife here, HOOAH!), So to say I had a lot of “extra” time on my hands would be an understatement. So to pass the time I went to the local Trader Joes often and spent many evenings cooking, experimenting, and comforting myself with tasty aversions.
Now I feel it necessary to note: While I have always preferred to cook with healthier, “all natural”, ingredients you won’t find me hanging out in the, “organic only” aisle at the grocery store. I purchase those items when there is a good deal to be had, but truthfully we consume so much fresh produce in this house, if I paid $3.50 for every Bell Pepper that came in through our door, well…we’d be broke. So instead I use my eco-friendly, non-caustic Melaleuca, (for those that know of Melaleuca-I’m addicted to their household items, haha!) Tough N’ Tender produce wash. But, I digress…
Fast forward to today, we now have two beautiful kiddos, both under the age of two, so my motivation to cook with more fresh, lean ingredients and less processed ones, is stronger than ever. As many of you mommas out there know, one can manage to gain a lb or two during pregnancy. For me, I won’t lie, I gained almost 70 between my two pregnancies within two years. Most folks were never able to tell because of my height, but for me it was huge. I had never been more than 10-15 lbs overweight at any given point in my life so working to get this weight off just months after having my son has been a real challenge-but no less one that I will accomplish :). So while I always cooked on the leaner side, I also started to adopt many South Beach diet food practices in efforts to keep my sugars low. One of my favorite blogs, “Kalyns Kitchen” http://www.kalynskitchen.com/ really helped me try out some fun new recipes minus the everyday starches (i.e. pasta, rice) that I would usually cook into my meals. So do not be surprised if you see many recipes of mine with a low carb and sugar count. I like to keep the focus on the proteins and veggies in the kitchen these days, but make no mistake I still partake in some heavenly homemade bread or a pasta dish here or there. Here are some pics of my biggest motivators these days :)…
(^ This is our Miss Madison, Our oldest-20 months. Favorite foods: pasta, strawberries, and string cheese
^^ This is our youngest, Brandon (4 months). Brandon is just testing out his palette on things like rice cereal, steamed apples, and prune juice. I have a feeling one day he will consume the most amount of my cooking 😉
^^ This is our Craigslist mutt, Duke. When Duke isn’t playing “tea time”, or chasing after his baby brother and sister, he is silently stalking me in the kitchen waiting for whatever morsel he can get.
So this is why cooking lean and healthy along with a good dose of fitness, (sometimes burning up 1200 calories per day!), Is paramount in my life at the moment. The energy necessary to keep up with these little ones demands that. But, more importantly I want to make cooking and eating healthy a positive cornerstone in their life. The good thing about feeding these little mouths is since my oldest started eating with us I surprise myself daily by substituting easy pre-made ingredients (i.e. pasta sauces, marinades, dressings, breads), with homemade ones. This often, to my surprise, is much easier, more affordable, and much tastier, than store bought, and has certainly helped me transition into a healthier realm of home cooked meals.
That in a nutshell is a little of the foundation, and motivation, that has molded me into the cook I am today. I only hope I continue to expand my knowledge of cooking with real ingredients, so I can feed my family from the heart for the rest of my days. While I can’t promise that I will churn my own butter, or won’t buy the occasional block of Velveeta (no grilled cheese like one made with Velveeta ) I do promise to cook with ingredients that God blessed this earth with to keep us healthy, happy, and hungry. Just a heads up, if you are not a fan of the following: Onions, Garlic, Olive Oil-this Blog may not be for you. I have a religious devotion to them, so be prepared to see a lot of these repeat offenders in my recipes. Oh-Oh! One other thing I’d like to note: The entree or dinner recipes here usually yield about 4 servings. Put it this way, it feeds my husband and I, (and Madison when she is willing to try ;p) and leaves enough leftovers for two. For some of the appetizers and soups they can serve anywhere from 6-10.
Make no mistake. I have never attended culinary school, I’m no chef, and to this day I still overcook pasta and chicken more often than I’d like to admit. But, what I have developed over the years is the ability to get creative with healthy ingredients and test my “culinary boundaries” in ways I never thought I would. Many times ending up in super tasty results!
So thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoy trying out my recipes. Many I have not written down yet, but I’m hoping this Blog will inspire me to do so. Some inspirations behind my recipes will not be 100% original, but I will be sure to reference and note the source when that is the case. Ultimately my goal for this Blog is to create a place for other foodies to come and gather new ideas, tips, and tricks to incorporate into their own kitchen. Thanks for blogging with me!
Enjoy, Eat, Live, Be Happy.