Category Archives: recipes

Small victories

I haven’t cooked a meal for myself since last October, which sounds strange considering how much I used to love cooking and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. In fact, I used to try a new recipe every week. On top of that, every Sunday I baked homemade bread and breakfast muffins. I was a regular Betty Crocker. Since October, though, the thought of having to cook something overwhelmed me.

A lot of that stemmed from the major depressive episode I was in. In severe depression, everyday activities like doing the dishes or taking a shower or throwing a burger on the George Forman grill seem like major obstacles to overcome so you don’t even try. I avoided doing dishes by using paper plates, forks, spoons, and cups. The cookware that did land in my sink was limited to empty plastic containers from when my Mom sent meals home with me. Those containers would sit there for weeks (sometimes a month) at a time.

Typically, after an episode, that all goes away as your life returns back to normal. And, for the most part it did go back to normal for me. Except in the way of cooking. Even now, I’m subsisting on Mom-made meals and bags of frozen vegetables and cans of soup and tuna. But on Monday night, when I was combing through my pantry trying to decide between a bag of popcorn or a bowl of cereal for dinner, I had a sudden urge to cook. I was even willing (gasp) to go to the grocery store.

Settling on a recipe was fairly easy since I have an overloaded Pinterest board of recipes to try. I settled on the first one that popped up though because if I sat there long enough, weeding through every one, I probably would have lost interest. It just so happens the first one that popped up was Shepherd’s Pie.

Usually I make modifications to recipes like adding things here and there or taking away things I don’t like. I don’t really care for the taste of lamb so I switched it for ground turkey. I also added some mushrooms and lima beans to the veggie mix and cumin for flavoring. Cumin is my go-to spice and I seriously think it makes everything taste better. Put it all together and you get this:

IMG_3099

I also tried a new take on mashed potatoes that I picked up from SkinnyTaste. I was slightly hesitant to try it because I rarely use lighter versions of comfort foods I love (fat-free cheese, sour cream, milk, etc.). Surprisingly, though, I actually like this version better. Milk was replaced with fat-free chicken broth and instead of using butter I chose a lighter version of sour cream. Even though it’s lower in calories, I thought it had a richer taste. I loved it so much I even made a separate batch to store in the freezer!

I was too excited to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the final product, but this one from Google images looks close enough, right down to the Paprika on top.

Taken from Google images. My food photos are not near as artsy as this one.

Taken from Google images. My food photos are not near as artsy as this one.

After dinner, I stood at the kitchen counter hand-washing dishes, hips swaying to the sound of Norah Jones, and I felt an emotion that I can’t remember the last time I felt: contentment. I write about this particular venture of mine only because what is a small victory to otherwise mentally healthy individuals is a big victory for me.

Now to decide what to cook next week!

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Fond du Lac County: The Little Farmer

Off Hwy 151 just outside of Fond du Lac, WI is a fourth generation family farm called The Little Farmer that grows apples and pumpkins. Here, you can pick the apples/pumpkins yourself or make your way over to the Apple House – a rustic barn which holds a fresh produce farmers market, craft store, and bakery. Make no mistake the aroma inside the barn is heavenly with scents of fresh-baked pies, muffins, caramel sauce, and apple cider lingering in the air. Although I was half-tempted to buy some apple pie right then and there and pass it off as my own, I opted to join in on the fun and go apple picking for the first time ever. In hindsight, I might as well have stuck with my original plan because 10lbs of apples and 5 recipes later I STILL have way more than I know what to do with. Also, I’m getting tired of eating apples.

The day I went apple picking there were two types you could pick: Cortlands or Red Delicious. Rather than get a mixture of both I opted for the Cortlands because they’re perfect for baking and cooking. With the weather turning cooler and my Halloween party coming up, I had a lot of stews and desserts to whip together.

First up were two stews: slow-cooker pork and cider stew and chicken stew with cabbage and apples. I made a few slight modifications to both recipes. For the pork and cider stew I tripled the amount of apple cider the recipe called for and replaced the kidney beans with carrots, celery, and potatoes. I ended up increasing the amount of liquid the recipe called for because I thought the meat might absorb all of it and stick to the slow-cooker. I’m glad I did because even with the added amount of liquid, there was hardly any left when I got home from work. It ended up being the perfect consistency and I served the stew over a bed of pasta. I’m not entirely sure I would make this recipe again (except there is a batch in my freezer guaranteeing I will at least eat it again). It definitely has a strong apple taste and after a few meals it gets to be a bit overpowering.

In this regard, the chicken stew with cabbage and apples fared much better. The only modifications I made to this particular recipe were to reduce the amount of cabbage and increase the amount of liquid so it was more soup-like. I also didn’t use fennel or caraway seeds because I didn’t know what they were or where to find them in the store. That being said, I’d say what brought this recipe together is the apple chicken sausage. It added a nice flavor and extra kick to every bite. In fact, I can’t get enough of it and the leftovers are even better.

Then there were desserts! Luckily for me, I have wonderful coworkers who love to eat. A lot. They’ve been the main beneficiary of my apple cooking adventures over the last week and a half but I also kept some in the freezer for a Halloween party I’m hosting towards the end of the month. So far, I’ve ended up making apple cinnamon muffins, apple coffee cake, and freezer apple-pie filling. When it comes to baking, I’m too scared to modify the recipes so the only thing to report here is that I’m proudly contributing to the growing waistlines of DJC (including my own) and the apple coffee cake was so. damn. good.

Happy Fall!

First apple picked ever!

First apple picked ever!

Pork and cider stew

Pork and cider stew

YUM.

YUM.

This was taken 5 minutes after I arrived to work...

This was taken 5 minutes after I arrived to work…

My neighborhood is beautiful.

My neighborhood is beautiful.

 

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Filed under cooking, County project, fall, recipes