TV Cooking Demos / Cookbook Author / Motivational Speaker

 

Welcome to my website, dedicated to sharing with you my passion for the inspired art of cooking. What is inspired art of cooking? It’s viewing cooking, not as an obligation, but as an inspired, creative art form. It involves taking a few ingredients and creating a masterpiece. When I say masterpiece, the meal doesn’t have to be a fancy, elaborate, gourmet dish. Your masterpiece can be small with a couple of ingredients, as long as you put your heart and imagination into it. From that, you will hopefully be inspired and experience fun and creativity while cooking.  Recipes are born out of creatively mixing your favorite foods and flavors together or by recreating a special dish shared in memorable places or moments with someone special. Inspired art includes experimenting and learning from mistakes. Even though you may feel that you have no cooking skills now, all it takes is a little practice, perseverance, and creativity.

We all feel tired at the end of a long day, and most of us just want to pop something in the microwave to serve for dinner. Maybe you don’t know how to cook or have no interest in it. Yet, inspired art of cooking is not about the food in and of itself. It’s about the blessings you can provide for family, friends, and even yourself. Providing a meal not only brings others joy and smiling faces, but it touches you much more in return. It’s about the sense of community when coming together around the dinner table and sharing in delicious food and togetherness.

Please check back often or subscribe to my website. I’ll be posting new recipes, cooking tips, fun food facts, and my future cookbooks and products. I would love to hear from you! Please share your own thoughts, stories, experiences, and tips.  Also, you may contact me directly through the contact page.

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Last Chance to Order Be Your Own Chef Cookbooks for Christmas!

Hurry! Now is the time to place your order of Be Your Own Chef and/or Be Your Own Chef II for delivery in time for Christmas. The cookbooks make ideal gifts for those on your list who love to cook or those who are wanting to learn how to cook. And with New Year’s right around the corner, now is the time to get started on a healthy cooking plan. My cookbooks will help you cook healthy meals without sacrificing flavor!

Order today by clicking the links below:

Be Your Own Chef II                                             Be Your Own Chef

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A Tribute to Bryan David Blake

BryanMy brother, Bryan David Blake, was an extremely hard worker. I always admired him for his work ethic. He was dependable, reliable, loyal, and respectful. Everyone he worked for knew he could be counted on in any given situation. He always rose to the top at each one of his positions. Even though his work hours were often long and tiresome, he never complained.

Not only was Bryan loyal to his employers through the years, but his dedication shone brightest in his musical accomplishments. He played numerous instruments and had a love for music. In high school, he was passionate about being a part of the show choir, Attache. Throughout his four years, the choir won a number of national awards. In addition, he spent many years as a Boy Scout, eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Bryan also had a talent and love for sports and playing sports. When he was focused on something, he fully dedicated himself to being the best.

Like my father, my brother was a gentleman just as he was raised to be. He also had a good sense of humor, which came out at every family gathering. Bryan would often tell stories, usually about something crazy I had done or about just me being me (for those of you who know me well). He found humor in things as often as he could.

I am sad this world has lost such a sweet guy who loved kids. He talked about how much he wanted children down the road and that he could not wait to be an uncle. He left me a few special voicemails that I still have to this day. Some include him sharing his joy for my first pregnancy for my identical twins, Angel and Joy. In another, he talks about his sadness when we lost them. He also left messages when I got pregnant with Ryan. While crying tears of joy, he proclaimed how he could not wait to be an uncle and who would have thought he would ever be one.

My brother had so many plans ready for Ryan for when they would spend time together – to teach him all about Star Wars and other things only an uncle could. I remember when we spoke on the phone for my birthday last year. The subject came up about how Chris and I named our son Ryan. Bryan kept saying to me, “Name him ‘Bryan,’ which is only one letter away from Ryan.” I am sorry Ryan will never get to meet his uncle Bryan or experience all the great times they were going to have together. Bryan could not wait to come up with my sister to meet Ryan after the birth and see where we live in Virginia Beach for the first time.

Bryan was also a very supportive brother. I have now written two cookbooks. I perform cooking demos on TV, as well as share my story with and cook in front of live audiences. Throughout the whole process, he would cheer me on and encourage me.  He also left messages on my phone sharing his excitement in how proud of me he was in all my accomplishments. We would talk semi-often on the phone, and he always wanted to hear about my story and to affirm how proud he was of me. He truly was one of my biggest cheerleaders. I will always remember he bought six of my first cookbooks. With much excitement, he gave them away to his friends. He never got to see my second book, but I know he would be just as excited and encouraging as he has always been.

One thing I loved most about him was the last thing you heard from him before you got off the phone or hugged goodbye were the words “I love you.” He made sure to say them throughout the last few years of his life. I loved my brother through the thick and thin of our relationship through the years and will always love and cherish the good memories we had. He picked on me more than anything it seemed, but the memories I have from that will always be some of my favorites. I cannot wait to share with Ryan all about his uncle Bryan!

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The Story of a New Life & a Struggle for Life – Part 5

Bryan had passed peacefully with my dad and sister at his bedside, holding his hands. I could not believe it. It did not seem possible that my brother of 39 years was no longer here. He will never get to meet his nephew or see him grow up. He will never get to be the uncle he had always talked about being. He will never have the opportunity to show him things and do things with Ryan he had long anticipated doing.  I will never get to see him again or even say good-bye.

Why did his life have to end five days after Ryan’s life began? Why did God allow the timing of it all? What good can come out of his passing at this very moment in time? Why did the joy of Ryan’s birth have to be a part of this tragic circumstance in my family’s life? How will this affect Ryan’s life, my life, my sister’s life, or most importantly my parent’s life? How was I supposed to have joy for Ryan when I was distraught over losing my brother? All these questions kept racing through my mind. I wanted answers from God, which I knew I was not going to receive at that time or even on this side of eternity. I was overcome with sadness, guilt, and  a great deal of anger.

The next few days were very difficult, to say the least. Devastation set in knowing Ryan and I would not be able to travel safely back to Knoxville, TN for my brother’s funeral. Ryan was only one week old, and I faced the possibility of a blood clot if I traveled. Life is just not fair. I could not even say bye and be there with my family during that time. I truly felt like an outsider looking in, like I was no longer part of the family because I could not be there with them. They would get to be there for each other and share that moment together while I was left behind. “Why me and why now?” That is all I could say to God. The time that was supposed to be the most special and joyful time in my life was stripped away with tragedy and will forever be a part of Ryan’s birth.

Death is never easy, but this one has been one of two that I have not been able to get through easily. With death comes the five stages of grief: denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I have to honestly admit I am still on anger in this process and have been since before Bryan passed. I despise this in myself and have tried to move forward, but I know it will just be a matter of time. I have been angry about the timing of everything – his age when he passed, not being a part of the healing my family experienced with him before he died, not being able to share in those last weeks with him like the rest of my family did. Hearing their stories regarding those last few weeks they shared together has been difficult, along with being unable to travel back for his funeral, withstanding the effects from his death, and knowing the loss my parents have experienced, one in which no parent should ever have to go through.

Like I said before, time will heal and it will get easier, not just for me, but also for my family. I will have moved on through the other stages of grief to acceptance and be able to enjoy the sweet memories I had with my brother. I also will never forget Bryan and will always love him. I look forward to the day where I can share about his life to Ryan and let him know how much his uncle loved him and desired to be a part of his life. 

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The Story of a New Life & a Struggle for Life – Part 4

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

5:15 A.M. –  Chris and I were transported to the operating room. At this point, I was still convulsing due to the past 15.5 hours of physical distress. They quickly hooked me up and strapped me down to the operating table in preparation for emergency surgery. Over the next few minutes, the doctor numbed my stomach and asked if I could feel his touch along my stomach. It didn’t take long before I had no feeling left, and then the C-section was underway.

5:39 A.M. - As I became more aware of what was unfolding, I heard the most comforting and beautiful sounds in the world: my newborn’s helpless, first cry while the doctor and the entire nursing staff sang “Happy Birthday.” RyanAll I could do was weep for joy that both of us survived after all we had endured. I was overwhelmed with love for him when I first heard his cry.

For the entire nine months, I had a difficult time becoming emotionally attached to him out of fear of losing another baby. When Bryan had a stroke, all feelings I possessed about the pregnancy were diminished out of fear, overwhelming sadness, and guilt. Also, I was scared that I would never experience the true love a mother has for her child, but the second I heard his beautiful cry, I was hooked. My love for him consumed me. As I lay there sobbing, I was overcome with complete joy and love for this beautiful life.

A few moments later, Chris carried our newborn son over to me for the first time. I will never forget what happened next. He was the only person who existed in that moment. All the world around me silenced and faded away. There he was, my beautiful little miracle, Ryan Scott Peek – 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and 19.75 inches long. The most beautiful blue eyes stared back at me. I finally had my moment. I just kept repeating to him “I am your mama” and “I love you.”

Shortly afterward, we were wheeled to the recovery room. Those moments I will cherish forever. Before the grandparents were brought back to meet Ryan, it was finally my turn to hold my little miracle. I have no words to express how special it was to hold him in my arms and stare into his beautiful, blue eyes. It was as if, when we looked into each others eyes, he knew how much I loved him and recognized that I was his mama who took care of him all those months. It was as if he knew that I was going to protect him and be there for him for the rest of his life. Those initial moments with him are ones I will forever treasure.

Likewise, I will never forget Ryan’s first moments with his grandparents. Ryan was first introduced to his Papa and Grandpa and then to his Mimi and Grandmother. I saw the sheer joy on their faces the second their eyes met, and as they cradled him and spoke to him. I was overcome with tears of joy at the sight of my mom and dad holding their very first grandchild. As I peered into their eyes, I recognized the love they had for this beautiful life I had given them. Seeing his Mimi and Papa hold their second grandchild was no different.

A few hours later, I was wheeled to my new home for the following five days, as I recovered from my C-section. I was blessed with the best nurses anyone could ask for. Their kindness and gentle spirits truly helped push me through those five, rough days. Even though the nurses were working a job, they showed nothing but love and compassion for both Ryan and me the entire time. I felt like I was their only patient, as the nurses treated me like a friend, made time for me, and cared for me instead of simply rushing in and out.

Of course there were the unpleasant parts of the stay, including being woken up every few hours of the day and night in order for the nurses to obtain my vital signs and medicines.  I was also trying to nurse Ryan, which took a toll on my body and emotions. I was not able to produce any milk, which in turn starved him. Ryan ended up losing weight, and we were forced to switch him to formula. This absolutely crushed me.

In addition, it was torture every time they took Ryan out of the room for a bath or any other procedure. I missed him deeply and just wanted to cradle him and never let him go.

Yet, in the midst of the joy of a new life, my heart and mind were filled with fear, as my brother remained in dire condition.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sadly, my dad headed back to Tennessee to be at Bryan’s bedside. That day was a particularly hard day for me, knowing that Dad faced such difficult days ahead and that he had to leave Ryan after two short days. I wanted him to be able to spend more time with Ryan, as well as to share stories and guide him in all of the aspects life he would need to know about. It was an emotional good-bye, but I knew it needed to be done.

Friday February 21, 2014  

Finally, the moment had come for us to head home after five excruciatingly long days. As the time drew closer for our discharge, the slower the clock seemed to tick. We had every nurse, doctor, resident, and lactation nurse come into my room that morning, one right after another. It felt like the eternal morning.

Eventually, transport wheeled me out of the hospital with Ryan in my arms. The family paparazzi were waiting at the front of the hospital, as Chris and his dad snapped away, capturing the special moment in numerous photos.

As we arrived home, I was elated to show Ryan his house, the place where he would live, grow up for the next few years, and have many of his “firsts” take place. We had a great afternoon just being home with Ryan and sharing those moments with most of his grandparents all together.

Yet, just a few hours later, my life changed forever with the phone call I had dreaded and prayed would never come to fruition.

To Be Continued…

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Order Be Your Own Chef ll Cookbook

Be Your Own Chef II coverBe Your Own Chef II is ready for purchase. You can order your copy today if you are interested in getting my second cookbook. It has 100 more pages and is much larger than the first, with more recipes to enjoy. The concept is the same as the first book, with substitutions in every recipe for those with special dietary needs, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten- free, peanut, dairy allergies, and more.

Thank you to all of you who supported book number one, as well as your support for the second edition. Click HERE to find out more information and order your copy today!

 

 

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The Story of a New Life & a Struggle for Life – Part 3

Monday, February 17, 2014

Around mid-morning, I was standing in the nursery putting clothes away. Suddenly, I felt the loss of some of my Amniotic fluid. After a few calls to the doctor’s office, we sped off to the hospital.

hospitalDuring the check-up, the tech confirmed that my water had not broken. However, the baby’s heart rate had dropped to 70 beats per minute, and my blood pressure was elevated. Thus, they made the decision to check us in and prepare me for delivery. We were taken to my labor and delivery room, where we eventually spent the next 15.5 hours anticipating the arrival we all had been waiting for.

2:00 P.M. – My labor began, as the nurses gave me inducing medicines. As every woman who has given birth would say, the pain was like no other, the worst I have ever experienced. While I was given an epidural, the relief was short-lived. The intensification of the pain would mark the beginning of a long night ahead.

With labor progressing, my dad and in-laws changed their original plans, as they had hoped to make the 8.5 hour trek from Knoxville to Norfolk the following day. Instead, they abruptly departed at 5:00 P.M. in order to arrive in time for the delivery.

After many hours of labor had passed, things started to unravel, as I had only dilated 2 centimeters. Every hour, I was given bolus amounts of pain medicine through my epidural to help alleviate pain that never seemed to downgrade to a tolerable level. The anesthesiologist was even concerned that the epidural was not working, after checking the placement of the epidural and given the amounts of medicine she had given to me. In the midst of the agony, my body started to continuously convulse. In addition, my heart rate remained elevated, and my heart condition began to spiral out of control. 

While all of this was occurring, my dad and in-laws were driving through the Shenandoah Mountains in the middle of a snow storm. My mom and dad were conversing back and forth regarding my labor via text through my mother-in-law since my dad was driving.

For those who may not know, I have a heart and adrenal condition called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST). When I experience attacks/storms, the adrenal glands shoot out large and abnormal amounts of norepinephrine for no real reason and at any time. This then puts my body into extreme “flight” mode.

When I undergo attacks/storms, my body instantly develops a rapid increase of heart rate (in the high-100′s to low-200′s, more than my “normal” elevated heart rate), dizziness, sweatiness, and inability to walk or talk normally. Symptoms also include upset stomach, nausea, the urge to urinate, and strong heart palpitations, among others, and all at the same time. These attacks can last for a few minutes to several hours at a given time. The symptoms are similar to that of a heart attack.

While my body continued to convulse, we discovered that the nurses and the on-call doctor did not know anything about my condition. They informed us they were continuing to research information about POTS throughout the night in order to better care for me. 

In the midst of all the craziness, the nurses burst into the room at one point and confirmed that the baby’s heart rate was fluctuating from the 70′s to high-100′s. He was in distress. I was given an oxygen mask and was told to wear it indefinitely. In addition, I was going in and out of consciousness due to my body convulsing, elevated heart rate, and my POTS/IST symptoms spiraling out of control.

Tuesday, February 18th

12:00 A.M. – The doctor informed me that he wanted to give me a medicine that would speed up my dilation. After talking to him and learning about the side effects, including an elevated heart rate, I emphatically told him, “No, do not give that to me or you will actually kill me.” After a few seconds, he said “Hold on” and thought through the potential for disaster. Ultimately, he agreed and decided against the additional medication.

2:30 A.M. – My dad and in-laws arrived at the hospital after a nine hour, adrenaline-filled car ride. They walked in to find me in my hospital bed, shaking like a leaf, hooked up to an oxygen mask and monitors. The doctor filled them in on all the events that had occurred throughout the night.

3:15 A.M. – After confirming we were still several hours away from delivery, the doctor stated that he would come back in three hours to check on the progress of the dilation and told us to get some rest.

4:15 A.M. – The doctor burst through the door into my room in a panic and expressed to us that he was extremely concerned about the baby’s heart rate and mine. He concluded that we needed to have an emergency C-section as soon as possible to save us both. The baby’s heart rate peaked at 190, and both he and I were in distress for too many hours. By this point, I still had only dilated 2 centimeters, and we could not wait any longer.

4:45 A.M. – I was rushed back to the operating room for the emergency surgery, crying and fearing the worst for my precious baby.

To be continued…

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The Story of a New Life & a Struggle for Life – Part 2

If you are going through hell, keep going.  - Winston Churchill

“Is everyone okay,” I nervously asked.

“No Karen… It’s Bryan.”

Last November, my brother Bryan was involved in a horrific car accident in which he was ejected from the vehicle. It was truly a miracle that he had survived, although his injuries included several broken ribs and a shattered heel, among others. Throughout his recovery while living with my parents, he slowly began to recover. When I saw him at Christmas, he was doing well and getting stronger everyday. We had even talked about all of the family going to the Tennessee/Oklahoma football game in September.

So when I heard Mom say the words “It’s Bryan,” my heart broke into a million pieces and total fear overwhelmed me, to say the least. The next thing that came out of her mouth was the very last thing I would have expected to hear.

Earlier that evening, Bryan had a hemorrhagic stroke and was rushed to the hospital, where his body lay in a coma. I asked if there was any way that he would survive, and she responded that he most likely would not. If he did make it through, his quality of life would likely be greatly diminished in a vegetative state. The stroke had occurred quickly and out of nowhere. Doctors concluded that his car wreck had nothing to do with what had happened that night.

After Mom and I talked a bit, I got off the phone, and all I could do was cry and shake uncontrollably on the inside. I was in shock. I kept saying to myself, “He is just 39 and was doing well the last time I saw him. How on earth was my intuition spot-on that something bad was going to happen around my delivery?” I wanted to be wrong. Yet, I had known in my gut months prior something bad was going to happen. I just didn’t know what.

I kept asking God, “Why now?” Of all times, why did this happen when I was about to finally deliver my first baby and my parents’ first grandchild. While deep down I loved my baby, I honestly have to say that I didn’t care at all about our pregnancy at that point.

For days, I struggled emotionally with guilt, anger, and despair. I was torn apart with guilt of being happy about our baby while my brother was in a life-and-death situation. It felt wrong to be joyful, knowing that the other half of me was distraught over my brother and my parents. How could I be happy knowing their son/my brother was most likely not going to make it?

I struggled with and continue to struggle with anger because of the timing of everything. How could God allow my brother to possibly die at the very moment my first child was due, the one whom we have longed and prayed for for so long? I felt I was being punished, as these circumstances occurred at what was supposed to be the most special time in my life after all the prior circumstances that I had gone through. Instead, I was robbed of my joy. In addition, despair overwhelmed me – thoughts that he may not make it out alive to meet his nephew, that I may never see him again or say goodbye, and because of the pain and emotional hell my parents were going through. I was screwed up emotionally, to say the least.

My dad was so excited about this baby that he had asked off work the month before and after February 12th so that nothing, and I mean nothing, would keep him from Karen 36 weeksbeing at the birth. My brother had never been to Virginia Beach to see where I live and was planning on traveling up to see his nephew. He loved kids and could not wait to meet his nephew and be an uncle. With all this uncertainty, I still had to somehow prepare myself for both the impending birth of our son and for whatever lay ahead with Bryan.

On my due date – February 12, 2014 – I began to have contractions. Chris and I drove to the hospital, but our stay was short-lived. It turns out that the contractions were simply Braxton Hicks, and we ended up coming home. That same night, snow storms were pounding the southeast, from Virginia Beach to our parents’ hometown of Knoxville, TN. My mom decided to head eastward to stay with us just in case I went into labor and to get ahead of the storms. At that point, my mom and dad made the hard decision to split up, with Dad staying behind with Bryan, who was hooked up to machines and ventilators.

For the next few days all we could do was nervously wait for reports on Bryan, as well as anticipate our son to make his grand entrance. As you can tell, everything was up in the air. Would my brother survive? If so, what would his quality of life be like? Would my dad be able to come to the birth of his first grandchild he and my mom had longed for?

To be continued…

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The Story of a New Life & a Struggle for Life – Part 1

The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up. – Robert Tew

This quote says a thousand words. Off and on for the past couple of years, especially in 2014, this quote has been the story of my life. Due to life’s circumstances, I have not posted anything in a while. Throughout the past few years, I have wondered if I can honestly make it through the struggle of the day to even develop my strength for tomorrow.  Let me go back in time a little bit and share with you a glimpse of my life.

After losing our identical twins, Angel and Joy, a few years ago, my husband and I tried again several months later for another little bundle of joy. After two additional miscarriages just months apart, we finally got pregnant again with a due date of 2/12/14. I was not sure how to respond to it or if we should even get excited and celebrate. In my mind, the dream of being a mommy to my own baby was starting to look like a pipe dream. I said to myself that I would not get excited for this pregnancy in case we lost another one. I just could not handle any more despair in my life.

After the nightmare of our previous group of OB doctors, thankfully we began working with a new set of compassionate and skilled doctors, ironically some of whom I used to work for as a nurse. They are the only high risk pregnancy doctors in Hampton Roads. Because of my heart condition and three prior miscarriages, I am considered a high risk pregnancy. Throughout the pregnancy, shockingly things went well. For the most part, I was able to exercise everyday and function at my “normal.”

121113 Ultrasound 1For the first time, we were blessed to hear and see a heartbeat, as well as have a gender reveal party to discover that God had blessed us with a baby boy. All appointments went well with our little miracle; he was healthy and growing as he should. Approaching each appointment,  I went in with a stomach full of butterflies, expecting to hear the words that tore me apart two years prior: “Your baby is dead.” Instead, we left each appointment filled with joy and happy tears of experiencing God’s power and answered prayers. Seeing the face of our little miracle via ultrasound at each visit provided the most heart-warming and special experience for me.

Sadly, I was yet to fully embrace my pregnancy and couldn’t do so until I heard his first cry. I was truly scared to open up my heart for another loss. The fear only intensified when the doctor took me off Progesterone, a medicine prescribed to me in order to increase my ability for a viable pregnancy. I just felt in my gut the entire 9 months that something was going to happen to the baby, me, or someone else I loved.  Nearing the end of those precious nine months, Chris and I drove to the hospital a few times, even once in a snow storm, thinking with each contraction that the time had arrived. We were eagerly anticipating our moment to meet the little man we and hundreds of others had hoped and prayed for.

On February 10th at 11:30 P.M., I received a phone call that changed my life forever. I was visibly shaking, as I answered the phone. I started to panic, thinking that my intuition had been right all along. I knew that nine months of calm waters had to end sometime. My life has rarely been that easy and smooth. My mom was on the other end, and at that moment, my life shifted into an emotional hell that set off a roller coaster of events.

To be continued…

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Holiday Cake Truffles

I know this cooking demo is delayed getting posted on here but life has been crazy busy. On this cooking demo, I am promoting my 2nd cookbook that will be coming out soon. Due to my life being so busy the past few months, the book will not be ready for purchase until May or June.  It is being designed as I write this and I will let you know when you can purchase your copies.

If the video does not show up, click here to watch.

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Seafood Au Gratin – WVLT Chef Walter

I recently cooked with Chef Walter on WVLT Knoxville, TN, making my Seafood Au Gratin recipe from Be Your Own Chef.

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