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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:
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.







Monday, January 25, 2016

Chicken Fajita Pasta


No lies... I made this so long ago I'm not even sure if it was pre-Emmie or post-Emmie, but it's been a long time. I do remember that whenever I made it I sat there eating it and thinking, "Why don't I cook more often? Gosh, I miss the days when I cooked regularly!" It was just so delicious. John and I both love fajitas and love pasta so I knew it had to be a winner. And, if I'm being honest, anything with campanelle pasta peeks my interest because it's easily my favorite shape. Is that weird? I mean I know it all tastes the same, but some are just more enjoyable than others. But with that said, this is flavorful, slightly creamy, and delicious. Make it soon!

Source: Slightly adapted from Kevin and Amanda

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 envelope (3 tablespoons) taco or fajita seasoning
1 cup diced onion (about 1/2 onion)
2 cups diced bell peppers (2-3 bell peppers)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 (10-oz) can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
8 oz (about 3 cups) pasta
½ teaspoon salt

Instructions
1- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with half of taco seasoning. In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat. 
2- When the oil is very hot, carefully add the chicken in a single layer and cook without stirring until one side is seared and browned, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the chicken to the other side and cook until browned. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
3- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet with the heat still on high. When the oil is very hot again, add the onions, bell peppers, and remaining taco seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are slightly blackened. 
4- Turn heat to low, add minced garlic, and stir until fragrant and well combined, about 30 seconds. Remove the veggies to the plate with the chicken.
5- In the same skillet, add the broth, cream, diced tomatoes, uncooked pasta, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes until pasta is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed. 
6-Add the chicken and veggies back into the skillet and stir to combine until heated through, about 2 minutes. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Hi there! It's been months...literally months...since I've blogged.

In the past few months I've barely cooked "real" meals. I mean, I put food on the table, but nothing worth noting.

Why? Why did I stop cooking? Why did I stop blogging? Why did I "forget" about something that meant so much to me?

Well, the truth is adjusting to two kids has been harder than I expected! My daughter, while beautiful and happy and adorably sweet, is also not the easiest baby and for a long time I was really struggling to keep my head above water.

I thought of this place...this tiny corner of the internet that's mine, and longed for the days when I came here as a place to unwind. I missed having that outlet. But I couldn't get here.

I decided a few weeks ago that now that my daughter is 6 months old it's time to really start making some efforts to get back to doing the things that bring me joy and one of those things is blogging. So, while I'm not going to make any grand promises, I am going to do my darndest to get back in the kitchen and get back here. Because this mama needs to feel like "Stephanie" and not just "mom" at all times. So...here's to 2016... a few weeks late...and I hope to be back more and more often.

xoxo

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pesto Chicken Flatbreads


Well, hello out there. Wonder where I've been? Well, I had a beautiful baby girl on July 21 and have taken some time off to just enjoy her, feed her, recoup, and relax. Now that she's 2 months life feels a bit more "normal" and I'm trying to get back in the kitchen and back in the swing of things. I have some recipes that I made months ago and never shared, so I am going to try to get back into blogging. I've missed it!

These flatbreads are pretty much the easiest meal ever, but the end results are delicious. They scream of summer, which is... over... but hey, I had a baby and I'm behind, ok?! Even though summer is technically over there's still plenty of warm days again so I vote you go ahead and try these, ok? I love the balsamic drizzle over the top and thing it just brought all the flavors together while also adding a subtle sweetness. I think some caramelized onions would just send these over the top- next time!

Source: Stephanie Cooks Original

Ingredients:
Per each flatbread:
1 piece of Naan bread (or a pita)
1 tbsp pesto
2 tomato slices
Cooked chicken (you can use grilled, rotisserie, etc... whatever you have)
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Balsamic glaze (not vinegar- you want the thickened glaze)

Directions:
1- Preheat a pizza stone to 450.
2- On the flat bread spread the pesto. Top with the tomatoes and chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over top.
3- Bake 10 minutes or until crust is crisp and cheese is melted.
4- Drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Crockpot Honey Sriracha Chicken


I love the crockpot for convenience but don't love what it does to chicken. Well, correction, I like bone-in chicken in the crockpot, but I feel like it kills breasts. Since I'm home on maternity leave/summer break I decided to try making it but keeping it to the lower end of the time range. That definitely helped. This chicken was tasty. It was flavorful and spicy, and the sauce that was drizzled over it sealed the deal. The sauce was creamy and cool which was a nice contrast to the heat of the chicken. I loved it over the simple rice... such an easy but tasty dinner!

Source: Slightly adapted from Crockpot Gourmet

Ingredients:
1 to 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
¼ cup Sriracha sauce
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

For the drizzle:
¼ cup mayo
¼ cup greek yogurt
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
2 tablespoons honey

Fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions
1- Cut chicken into large bite sized chunks.
2- Place in the crockpot. In a bowl mix together Sriracha, ¼ cup honey, and soy sauce.
3- Pour over chicken, cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours or low for 5-7 until chicken is cooked through.
4- Whisk together drizzle ingredients.
5- Serve chicken with rice or noodles as desired with a generous drizzle of the sauce. Top with cilantro, if desired.