Saturday, April 29, 2017

Grilled Potato Packets

The weather in NJ has finally gotten to the point where I can say, "Ohhhh it's grilling season!" Growing up it was always grilling season... my dad would be out grilling steak in the snow. I have to say I am definitely not that committed to the craft. Since I really only use my grill during the spring and summer I really look forward to it!

I had bought a few potatoes with intentions of making baked potatoes but at the last minute decided to throw them on the grill along with the steak I was making. These were to die for. I haven't had the best of luck with Pioneer Woman recipes but these were amazing. I mean... butter and cream really can't be bad. The sauce on these was incredible. I have a feeling these will be made again (and again) this spring and summer! see that creamy sauce coating these? Mmmmm!

Source: Adapted from Pioneer Woman

2 Russet potatoes, diced
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light cream
Garlic powder
Dried parsley
Crushed black pepper

1- Lay out two foil sheets.
2- Evenly place the foil in the center of each sheet of foil.
3- Top each pile of potatoes with 1.5 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp of cream.
4- Season well with salt, garlic powder, parsley, and black pepper.
5- Roll up the foil to form a packet.
6- Cook on the hottest part of the grill for about 30 minutes.
7- Carefully open the foil. Stir well to get the sauce from the bottom to coat all of the potatoes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Creamy Italian Chicken Rolls

Let's start off with saying these should totally be called "ranch chicken rolls" but I got to the grocery store, saw I had written ranch on my list but had no idea why I wrote it, and bought creamy Italian instead. I got home and saw I planned to make these (originally with ranch) and was bummed! But, we improvised people, we did. And by "we" I mean *I* improvised, while Landon told me it looked "gross" and Emmie begged for yogurt, bananas, and anything BUT what I was making. 

John loves "stuff wrapped in flaky pastry" (I think that's the scientific term for these things...) so I knew he'd love these. Tuesdays are easily my busiest day and since I'm just getting back into the groove of cooking these were a perfect meal option. I'm not gonna lie, these were super messy in the assembly process, but the end result was delicious. The dough wasn't really holding in the filling but I just pinched it together as best I could and they baked up beautifully. Best of all, this is the essential "semi-homemade" meal that I am able to make during the crazy weeknight routine. 

Source: Adapted from Pillsbury

1 roll of crescent rolls
Creamy Italian salad dressing (can sub ranch)
1.5 cups cooked chopped chicken (I used rotisserie)
1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
2 tbsp chopped green onions

1- Preheat the oven to 375.
2- Roll out your crescent dough. Press the seams together to make one large sheet of dough.
3- Top with the dough with a thin, even layer of creamy Italian salad dressing.
4- In a bowl mix the chicken, cheese, and green onion. Add a tbsp of dressing and stir the mixture well.
5- Top the dough with the chicken mixture. Roll up long side in. Slice. Transfer the rolls to a cookie sheet topped with a silpat.
6- Bake about 20 minutes, until rolls are golden and cheese is melted. Serve with additional dressing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chicken Ramen Bowl

Let me tell you, you guys are the absolute best. The BEST. When I posted on my blog's facebook page that I was coming back and about my struggles you were so supportive. It made my day! It also made me more accountable. Today was day 2 of me trying to cook more. As I was driving home from work (late... I have meetings on Tuesdays, got stuck at a broken train, detoured into stand-still traffic, you get the deal) I was so tempted to just throw a frozen pizza in the oven or grab takeout. Habits, particularly bad ones, are not easy to break. But... I didn't. And that my friends is a victory.

Evenings are hard for me. I get home with the kids around 4:30 (5:30 on Tuesdays) and my daughter is in bed by 6:30. That leaves me 1-2 hours to get both kids fed, bathed, etc. This time crunch has been one of the main reasons I've stopped cooking. By the time I unpack school bags, lunch boxes, art projects, and get the kids fed, I just am DONE. But I pushed through, and boy am I glad I did.

This was delicious. Better than I expected quite frankly. I didn't have many of the ingredients in the original recipe (that's what happens when you don't cook for a year!) so I made do with what I had and it was totally awesome. Best of all I got it on the table within 20 minutes. Woo hoo!

Source: Adapted from So Tasty So Yummy

1/2 pound chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup broccoli
1 bell pepper, sliced thin
2 packets of ramen noodles (I used the soup and just tossed the seasoning packet)
1 tsp corn starch
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp garlic teriyaki sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1- In a skillet heat the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until light brown and cooked through. Remove to a dish and cover.
2- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli for 2 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon (do NOT drain the water). Add the ramen to the water and boil for approximately 3 minutes.
3- Meanwhile, add the broccoli and peppers to the skillet. Sprinkle with corn starch and stir well. Add the broth, teriyaki sauce, and vinegar. Heat over medium heat.
4- Add the pasta and chicken back in to the sauce. Allow to heat and stir to coat the noodles.
5- Serve hot.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Um... So, It's been over a year, huh?

Hello, old friend! I'm not sure if anyone is even out there anymore. It's been a journey since our last meeting. A little over a year ago I posted about my struggle with postpartum depression. Since then I have returned to work this past September and I can truly say that, emotionally, I have been doing well!

However... there's been a new struggle. I've gained a lot of weight. There. I said it.

If you know me in "real life" this is no surprise, but the truth is I just haven't had the energy to do anything about it. You see, one year ago I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I lost it all pretty quickly after having Emmie. I nursed her until she was 16ish months and when I stopped nursing I gained 20 pounds within 3 weeks. Yup. This happened with Landon too so I was expecting it, but that doesn't make it suck any less. My body really wants to nurse babies and doesn't like when I stop!

I am a solid 30 pounds over where I want to be and a huge part of that is that I just don't cook anymore. I am alone with the kids Monday-Friday from the time I get home from work until they're in bed so taking care of me has fallen completely to the back burner. Dinner was a necessary evil. We ate a lot of takeout, a lot of frozen pizza, and a lot of "no cook" meals (quesadillas, processed food, etc.)

I'm pulled in many directions right now. I work full time as a teacher, I am a mom to two little kids (5 and 1), and I also do a lot of work in education on a state and national level. This month alone I am presenting three times and flying to Denver for a national conference. To say "me time" is limited is an understatement.

I'll be honest, I'm not mentally "there" to diet right now. I tried a few months ago, was super diligent for a month, and only lost 2 pounds in that month. I accepted it, thinking it was because I had only recently stopped nursing so maybe my body was still adjusting, etc. I can't explain that month but it was definitely challenging on me mentally. I was TRYING to put myself first, which is darn near impossible as most mamas know, and it wasn't working. I was frustrated and gave up.

Lately it's been getting bad. I have wanted to avoid plans because I don't want people to see me. I'm embarrassed when I see pictures of myself or catch my reflection in a car or store window. So I think it's time to try to get back on track.

The track I'm getting on is cooking. I'm not even focusing on the weight for now. Instead I'm just working on cooking and eating real food again. I don't make any promises that I'll stick to this, but I'm going to try. In the ten minutes it's taken me to type this I've had to get up 7 times to help my kids ("More berries! More milk!") so I know it'll be a challenge (wait... make it 8 times... we needed MORE berries... again!), but I need to try. I make no promises of how often I'll be here, but the blog still be about food... with a bit of me chatting about the struggle that is trying to take care of yourself, your family, and everything else in the world.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Creamy Skillet Ravioli

Is it just me or is your fridge full of half-used "stuff"? Half a jar of this sauce, half a bottle of that condiment, etc. It makes me nuts. Not nuts enough to be efficient and use them up, instead I often end up chucking jars that seem to have gone from good to questionable... but hey, nobody's perfect, 'm I right?

Growing up my favorite meal was ravioli with sauce. It's still pretty high up there but these days I tend to find it a bit boring. I threw this lil' number together in an effort to use up some of my half-used things (tomatoes and alfredo in this case) and mmmm was it a success. Landon, who eats approximately 1 food, said, "That smells DELICIOUS!" (He didn't taste it- but hey, we can't win them all...) Such an easy meal and it's so so yummy.

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups Alfredo sauce (about 1/2 a jar)
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1 package cheese ravioli
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1- Preheat the oven to 350.
2- Place tomatoes in an oven-safe skillet. Drizzle oil over the top and set in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the tomatoes skin begins to wrinkle and the juices begin to run out.
3- Meanwhile, cook your ravioli according to package directions.
4- Using a potato masher mash the tomatoes, releasing their juices into the skillet.
5- Stir in the alfredo and the garlic salt, stir well.
6- Gently fold the ravioli into the sauce.
7- Top with the shredded mozzarella. Return to the oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the cheese melts and the sauce bubbles.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ying Yang Cookies

Before I even get into these cookies, thank you...from the bottom of my heart... for your support with my last post about my struggles after my daughter was born. The outpouring of love on facebook was amazing. So again, thank you. I love you guys.

Let's move on to the cookies, mmmmkay? I made these for a Superbowl party we were going to. Landon loves helping me in the kitchen so I knew I wanted to make some type of cookies but I wasn't feeling too inspired. I took my trusty cake batter cookie recipe, made two different types, smashed them together, and ta-da. These were delicious, fun to look at, and easy to make.

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original


White side:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 heaping cup M&Ms

Black side:
1 box chocolate cake mix
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chocolate chips

1- Preheat the oven to 350.
2- Line cookie sheets with silpats or spray with non-stick spray.
3- In two separate bowls, combine the cake mix, baking powder, eggs, and oil. Stir well. Fold in the M&Ms to the white bowl and the chocolate chips to the black bowl.
4- Using a Tbsp measuring spoon scoop one Tbsp of each mix and press together gently, side by side. Lay on cookie sheet.
5-Place no more than 8 cookies on a sheet at a time, these are large and spread.
6- Bake for 11-13 minutes, just until the edges are slightly brown.
7- Allow to cook 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Honest Truth

Cooking became a passion of mine shortly after I got married in 2008. I started this blog in late 2008 and found this little corner of the internet to be my safety spot. No matter how stressed, sad, happy, or busy I got, coming here and writing, editing pictures, and sharing my cooking was a stress reliever and a source of great pride.

But something changed.

I had my second child, my beautiful daughter, and suddenly... things changed.

For the first few weeks after Emerson's birth I had a strong case of the "baby blues." I had them with Landon too and after two weeks they passed. With Landon, when the "blues" passed I felt 100% like myself. I felt joy, stress, excitement, fear... all the emotions that go along with having a newborn. I remember by 6 weeks I was out and about, taking him to "mommy and me" classes, and resuming life as "normal." Better than normal... I was on cloud nine.

Six weeks after Emmie was born I still felt a little... off. Emmie was demanding in ways Landon wasn't, but all those emotions I felt with Landon- joy, stress, excitement, fear... they were different. I felt them, but I felt numb. It was like I was watching my life from the outside. 

Having never dealt with any form of depression before in my life I didn't see the signs. I didn't see that my lack of desire to see my friends, my lack of interest in my hobbies (cooking, blogging, makeup, etc.) was non-existent. I assumed it was all because of adjusting to having two kids.

I chose to "fake it until you make it." I tried to ignore the voice in the back of my head saying something was wrong. I even came here... twice... and tried to start again.  I figured if I just DID it, I just blogged, I just forced myself to do things I liked, I'd find the joy.

But I didn't.

I felt nothing.

I wasn't sad.

I wasn't crying.

I was numb.
(To the outside world I look like a mom 
with a very new baby-about 2 weeks old- and a son, having fun at the park. 
I assure you this was one of the worst days of my life, mentally, 
and what was going on inside me is not even remotely showing on the outside).

But, that's not what postpartum depression is, right? It's being sad! It's wanting to hurt your baby! It's crying all day! I was just tired... right? 

So I went on... and on... and on. For six months I told nobody that I was deeply struggling. Until one day when I couldn't keep it to myself anymore. I hit a low point that scared me more than I can begin to explain. The numbness started to subside, but what was appearing was a feeling of nothingness. Of wanting to not be here. I didn't want to die, I wasn't suicidal, but I wanted to disappear. For a person who is generally very happy and finds the joy in all situations, this was shocking. What was happening?

I sat there on the couch, looking at a picture of Landon when he was 8 weeks old, and remembering the day I took the picture. I realized I had never been that happy, not one day, while I was caring for my daughter. And it wasn't her. Oh she is so perfect... she is such a joy and brings such light to my life... but I was so incapable of feeling joy.

Finally, I sought help. I went to my doctors and took the steps I needed to take. Now, 6 weeks later, I can say I am 100% back to being me. I've found my joy again. I've regained my hobbies, my interests, my passions in life. 

And you know what? I'm not ashamed of my struggle. I'm not ashamed of how I felt because it doesn't mean I didn't love my daughter. It doesn't mean I wasn't a good mom. To the outside world you'd never know I was sick... but inside... where it matters... I was so sick. 

I didn't need to write this post. Nobody comes here for life advice. But I couldn't really ignore this giant elephant in the room of my life. The truth is I mostly write this blog for myself. I'm never going to be a big time blogger, I have no interest in it, but this blog is also like a life diary for me. I look back on posts and remember why I made certain dishes, where I brought certain desserts, etc. I see posts and know that was the day I found out I was pregnant, or the day I bought a new car. Those stories aren't told here but to ME they are the story behind the posts.

 And whether I wrote this post or not I'd always know why there was a six month lapse on the blog. Whether I shared this or kept it to myself the lack of posts would always signify one of the hardest struggled I've faced.  So why not share this? Why not be honest? Maybe somebody reading this is struggling too, or has, or will... and all I want to say is it can get better. You can feel normal again. But you have to seek the help needed. There's no shame in medication, counseling, and admitting you need help. My only regret is not doing it sooner.