Food Ups and Downs

In keeping with the theme of the blog, I’ve got a happy story and a sad story to tell y’all. Let’s rewind to Sunday and relive the success first:

My future sister-in-law and her husband are currently remodeling their kitchen. While she is pregnant. I’ve never been pregnant, so I don’t know what it feels like to not have a kitchen while you’re growing a person inside of you, but I can’t imagine it is very much fun! My fiance is helping with the remodel, and since I have nothing to offer on that front, I decided to cook them dinner.

Sister-in-law brought over her pyrex pan, and I made food in it for them to take home and put in their refrigerator  which is currently located in either the living room, or the basement. I’m not really sure which.

I made this, which I found on Pinterest. I changed out the sausage for mushrooms, and then I made some with chicken chunks for the meat-eaters (including the sweet little baby!), and made a smaller pan straight vegetarian. I served it with a spinach salad and some roasted garlic bread. NAILED IT.

Fast forward to yesterday. I had big plans to make a simple dinner for the fiance and myself – Paninis and a salad. I know what you’re thinking… “How could she mess that up?” Well let me tell you.

It is hard to make paninis and a salad when you have no bread in the house, and no salad greens!!!

Basking in my failure, I ended up in a heap on the floor laughing while on the verge of tears. We live near a Taco Time, and the fiance suited up to run down and get us some bean burritos. It has been pretty cold around here lately, so he couldn’t quite make himself walk out the door. We just looked at each other, and suddenly it became clear. Instead of a simple home-cooked meal, we ordered two pizzas. TWO. One with soooo much meat for my man, and one thin crust veggie one for me. FAIL!

Pinterest Friday!

Yesterday my good friend Sarah and I decided to make three side dishes/appetizers for a sort of “tapas style” dinner. In theory, this was a great idea. But Sarah and I have a history of not executing recipes properly. Take these ginger cookies as a recent example:


We really blew that one! So yesterday, after browsing Pinterest, we settled on Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa, Cornbread Stuffed Jalapenos, and Buffalo Cauliflower. Here is a summary of the results:

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa

This recipe was awesome. 4 ingredients, 1 pot… done! And because you can buy frozen broccoli that is already chopped you really just dump everything in and its done. This was easily our most successful dish, and I will keep the recipe and make it again.

Cornbread Stuffed Jalapenos

We actually didn’t mess these up either, because they were very, very simple. But I’m still not sure we’d make them again. First of all, Sarah cut and gutted the jalapenos, and her fingers were on fire afterwards. Not to mention we both ended up crying and almost choking on the jalapeno fumes, which I didn’t even know was possible! Second of all…those little guys were way too spicy!!! The concept was absolutely spot on, but we fed them to our men as well, and we had them running for celery, ranch dressing and  glasses of milk to find relief. And they ended up needing Tums for heartburn afterwards. Sarah suggested that we add a dollop of cream cheese underneath the cornbread next time, and then “they’d probably be fine”. But nothing good comes out of us modifying recipes… So the moral of the story? If you LOVE spicy, these are great. You should make them. If you just LIKE spicy… don’t do it!

Buffalo Cauliflower

The goopy, boogery mess on the pan

The goopy, boogery mess on the pan

I was the most excited for this recipe. I’d been eyeing it on Pinterest forever, and finally the day had come! Well… I pulled a classic Carolyn – I didn’t read the recipe all the way through before starting.

So I dumped all the ingredients in the bowl, mixed them up, and coated the cauliflower. Only then did I read the recipe and realize that there were a few steps that I had missed. Like the part where it mentions which ingredients get mixed before the cauliflower’s trip to the oven, and which get poured on afterwards.

Well, there was no way to un-mix the ingredients. So I just dumped everything onto a pan and threw it in the oven with my fingers crossed. When I took the pan out later, it looked like boogers. The sauce had congealed, and it actually reminded me of the sticky, strange

mess we had when we made the ginger cookies! We served the goopy mess up anyway, and it actually tasted pretty good! But clearly, the order in which you do things mattered in this instance. I’ll try to remember that next time, but history shows that I never learn.

I don’t know what gets into my head that makes me think “I read the ingredients! I’ve got it from here!” I always end up so surprised that I missed something at the end. And I know that I have this problem with not following the procedure, yet still, as I stand in the kitchen with the ingredients in front of me, I make the mistake again and again and end up equally shocked at the result each time!

Flash Dinner! Shrimp Burritos in under 15 minutes


Today my commute home from work was a little extra long, and my stomach was a little extra empty. I knew, for my sanity, that I had to get dinner on the table quickly!

This is how I wrapped mine up - open on one end.

This is how I wrapped mine up – open on one end.

This is how my man dressed his up - closed on both ends.

This is how my man dressed his up – closed on both ends.

I haven’t been grocery shopping in quite a while, so my options on cooking are sincerely limited. During my torturous commute, I took a mental inventory of what I had at home and came up with a list for Shrimp Burritos.  They turned out great! And they were so fast that my fiance wasn’t ready to eat when I had them done!

We both ended up stuffed full and happy. I put everything on the inside of mine, and since the fiance wasn’t ready for food when I was, he had to reheat his and come up with a new strategy. He filled his tortilla up, rolled it up, and microwaved it. Then he topped it with salsa, sour cream and cheese and ate it “smothered” style. I almost wish I had done it that way! Except there is something very satisfying about eating with your hands…so I suppose I don’t regret my method too horribly!

Shrimp Burritos in under 15 minutes


  • Vegetarian canned refried beans
  • Burrito sized flour tortillas
  • Frozen peppers and onions (I keep these in the freezer at all times! a real meal-saver!)
  • Frozen, peeled, deveined and de-tailed shrimp
  • Shredded carrots (I keep these around all the time too! great for salads and stir-fry!)
  • Sliced white or baby bella mushrooms
  • Salsa
  • Light sour cream
  • Shredded mexican blend cheese
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Lime juice
  • Taco seasoning
  • olive oil


  1. Warm the refried beans up in a pot on the stove
  2. At the same time, throw the onion/pepper blend and mushrooms into a pan that has been lightly olive-oiled.
  3. Once they start thawing a bit, add the shrimp
  4. When the shrimp start to get a little bit of color, but before they’re totally pink and cooked, add a couple squirts of lime juice, a shake of cayenne (more if you like it spicier!) and a shake of taco seasoning. Then add a generous handful of shredded carrots.
  5. Don’t forget to stir your beans so they don’t burn on the bottom!
  6. After the shrimp are pink all the way through, layer everything up on a tortilla! My preferred order is – sour cream, then beans, then cheese, then shrimp/veggies, then salsa.
  7. Wrap it up the way you like best, but make sure at least one end is closed up so you don’t get too sloppy!
  8. Enjoy.

My Relationship with Cooking

Before we get cooking in here, I wanted to set the stage by explaining my relationship with cooking.

I grew up in a home where eating home-cooked meals was important. My mother and father had both grown up with those values, and they passed them along to my brothers and me. We were a fairly traditional household, where my mother did nearly all the cooking. We would come home from water polo or swim practice ravenous, and all of us would convene around the table for something delicious my mother had prepared. Occasionally my father would prepare a meal – or should I say 2o meals?! He only cooked a few things: Homemade pizza, steak with creamed corn and chili, and homemade burritos. And he did it in mass quantities so we would have leftovers and a full freezer for weeks.

My mother’s constant cooking meant that I never really had to do much cooking myself. She also baked a lot, and she would include my brothers and me if we wanted to participate, but for the most part, I became familiar with cooking not by doing it myself, but essentially by osmosis.

We were all meat-eaters growing up, and until I moved out to live on my own, I never really understood that there was another way to live. Of course I knew what vegetarians were, and I even knew a couple personally! But that had never really been an advertised option in my family, so even though I never really loved meat, I thought it was just “the way of things”.

But I did move out and live on my own. And I started doing the grocery shopping. And I had to cook for myself. I quickly realized three things:

  1. I was not as good a cook as my mother
  2. I was a horrible baker
  3. If I don’t like meat, I don’t have to buy it – or eat it

I slowly phased out meat, starting with the things I liked least, and finally cutting out sausage at the end. But I never could quite get myself to cut fish out of my diet. So I ended up being a Pescetarian.

At first, when I started cooking for myself, I never used a recipe. I got artistic and creative and something edible usually came out the other end (unless I was baking!). In recent years, I have started to understand the charm of a recipe, although I frequently end up using the recipe as an “ingredient list” rather than a mandatory protocol (unless I am baking!). My cooking has improved drastically since the introduction of recipes into my process.

I love to hunt Pinterest for recipes, and I have made my own cookbooks for personal use with the recipes I have collected from there, from my mother, from my own brain, and other sources.

My greatest challenges in my cooking currently are cooking for my fiance, because he eats (and loves) meat, and baking. My artistic flair and resistance to exactness still get me in trouble with baking. And lastly, I find it very challenging to motivate myself to cook as often as my mother did. Cooking in large quantities, like my father, comes easy. But sometimes I’ll go weeks without putting a true homecooked meal on the table.

I plan to document all of it here. The successes and the failures alike. And if I’m lucky, I’ll even get a few guest posts from friends, and maybe even a blog-partner down the line.