My twin brother and I were adopted from Costa Rica when we were three. We grew up in a very loving home by the best Mom and Dad anyone could wish for. My Mom was the main cook in the house, always preparing a comforting classic meal that included a protein, a vegetable and a starch. In 8th grade, my Grandmother moved in with us and did a lot of the cooking and baking. It was always delicious. While my Dad didn’t do a lot of the daily cooking, he is quite the master when it comes to things like chili, pasta sauce, ribs and shrimp scampi. Thinking back, I grew up eating very, very well!
I never took an interest in being in the kitchen except for when it was time to eat. I now regret this because the beloved foods I grew up eating were lost when my Mom passed away in 2007. I wish I had taken the time to learn more about how she did things in the kitchen. I still dream of
her roasted chicken!
I really began cooking and taking a real interest in food after I met my fiancé, Mike. If I hadn’t, I would be eating dinosaur chicken nuggets and blue box macaroni and cheese every night, which is his specialty. One of my greatest pleasures is cooking for Mike and having him enjoy what I prepare. Although I don’t feel I have a specific style of cooking, I can say that I love simple, satisfying meals. That works for Mike, too, as he is definitely a man of simple taste. Though my Mom never had the chance to cook for him (we met two months after she passed away), he prefers meals with a protein, a vegetable and a starch, also. He would have loved her! I get very excited when Mike tries something new and discovers that he likes it. With my help, he is eating a lot more vegetables!
Mike is my rock and is always very supportive and encouraging. It doesn't matter if it’s getting through college, my career as a crime analyst for my local police department, or being a part of 37 Cooks, he is always there for me. Without him, I doubt I would make my deadlines for 37 Cooks! Even though Mike likes to say I have a food “problem” (eating, cooking, watching, reading and thinking about food 24/7 isn’t a problem, right?), it all leads to us sitting down to a home cooked dinner together, which is my favorite part of each day.
I always keep my mom with me in everything I do, including in the kitchen. What is more classic comfort food than a meatloaf dinner? I remember having meatloaf my mom made and the family dinners we enjoyed. My meatloaf is different than my mom's, but it's just as delicious! As she always did and Mike likes best, I serve it with starch and veggie side dishes. Make your favorites, these recipes are what I had on hand! Also, I made this dinner for two, so if you are cooking for a family you can double it up.
1 celery stalk, finely diced
¼ small onion, finely diced
4 baby carrots, finely diced
2 strips bell pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
Salt and pepper
½ pound lean ground beef
4 Tablespoons ground flax seed
Parsley, finely chopped
Few shakes Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Squirt Dijon mustard
Have a pan on medium high heat and drizzle in a bit of olive oil, enough to cover the pan. Add in all the veggies, the tomato paste, salt and pepper and sauté until soft. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and the cooled veggie mix. Mix to combine. Separate the mixture into two and free form two meatloaves onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Serve with a“baked potato” and greens.
Easiest “Baked Potato”:
2 medium sized russet potatoes
This isn’t a recipe, it's just how I do my potatoes the easiest way when I want a "baked" one to go with a meal. I’m not reinventing the wheel, of course, so I let the microwave do the work! Punch the potatoes with a fork a few times all around, and nuke it until soft and tender, about 7-8 minutes. We like to open it up; add a few dabs of butter and salt and pepper.
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Big pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 big handfuls of chopped chicory
2 big handfuls of chopped escarole
2 big handfuls of spinach
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
This just happened to be the greens I had in my fridge, but you can use any delicious mix! Cover a pan over medium hot heat with olive oil. Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper. Add in the greens, a bit at a time, until they wilt and you can fit more in. Once they have all wilted down and are tender, add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.