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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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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Repelling Mosquitoes with Food

bug sprayLike me, many of you are probably mosquito magnets. Since I despise wearing nasty, sticky bug spray, I figured there had to be some non-sticky options. Interestingly enough, several foods, plants, and herbs are natural mosquito repellents, making that icky bug spray something of the past.

Examples include lavender, rosemary, citronella grass, basil, lemon thyme, lemon balm, lemongrass, cat nip, and pennyroyal. The scents and oils in them act as a repellent to mosquitoes.

Crush the leaves of some of these herbs and plants to bring out their natural oils and fragrances. Then rub them on your body where you tend to get bitten, and those pesky mosquitoes will go and haunt someone else. Before doing this, make sure they are safe for children, as well as woman who are pregnant.

In addition, when you eat a substantial amount of garlic, the fragrance comes through our pores and naturally prevents mosquitoes from wanting to feast on us. Another trick is to rub a cracked clove of garlic on your skin, making sure the oil from the cracked clove is what is going on your skin. Also, by taking a vitamin B1 supplement (25 to 50 mgs three times a day), which is also known as thiamine, it will allow the aroma to come through your pores.

By simply growing marigolds, lemon balm, rosemary, mums, and garlic, just to name a few, the aroma can prevent those pesky mosquitoes from coming around.

Photo Courtesy: Håkan Dahlström

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Getting The Most Out of Your Asparagus

asparagus

What to Look for When Buying Asparagus

  • Choose firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips and that are plump in size. If the color is fading or they are limp, that is a sign of being old. Also, check the stems at the bottom to make sure they look freshly cut, not shriveled up or dried out.

How To Store Asparagus for Longer Shelf Life

  • Fresh Asparagus will stay fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. Do not wash your asparagus before you cook it.  You want to keep it in a cool and damp location. One way to store it is to place the unwashed stems/bottoms upright in a container in a few inches of water. Then place a plastic bag over them and loosely cover them. Let them sit like that in a refrigerator until you eat them.
  • Another option is to wrap the unwashed ends/bottoms in moist paper towels, place the bundle into a plastic bag, and place it in the refrigerator.

How to Prep Your Asparagus

  • To trim the stems/ tough ends, pick up one spear and hold it from each end. Then gently bend it with your hands, and where it snaps or naturally breaks, is where to cut off all the other stems.
  • Wash your asparagus only before cooking it by submerging it in warm water to remove any sand or grit.
  • If you purchase thick asparagus, you may need to peel them if the skin is tough. To do so, use a vegetable peeler to peel until you get to the more tender stalk underneath. Do not peel the tips.

How to Cook Your Asparagus

  • Boiling -  In a large pot, boil them in salted water for 5-8 minutes until they are tender crisp.  Salt is optional for added flavor
  • Steaming -  Either keep the asparagus long or cut diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces. Place them in a large pot with a steamer basket, adding water up to the steamer basket.  Steam them for 2-8 minutes or until tender crisp.
  • Sauté -  Cut each stalk diagonally into 2-3 inch pieces. Then place them in a skillet over medium to medium high heat with extra virgin olive oil.  Sauté for about 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.
  • Roasting – After washing them, pat dry and lay them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or on a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with a seasoning of your choice. Using your hands, make sure to evenly distribute oil and  seasoning all over each one.  Then, place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Cook until tender crisp.
  • Grilling – After washing them, pat them dry. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with a seasoning of your choice. Using your hands, make sure to evenly distribute oil and  seasoning all over each one. Then, place in a grill basket or lay perpendicular in a single layer on your grill so they do not fall through the cracks. Turn every few minutes, making sure you evenly cook each stalk.  Grill them until slightly brown in color and still crisp.
  • Microwaving-  After washing them, place them in a microwave -safe dish, adding about 1/4 cup of water to the dish. Then, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, stopping and stirring every few minutes.

Photo Courtesy: goosegrease

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Overcoming Life’s Difficulties – Speaking Thalia Lynn Baptist, Virginia Beach, VA

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New Recipe – Asian Lemon Chicken Pasta

Ingredients

1 package whole wheat noodles

2-4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4-6 chicken breasts (one breast per person)Asian Lemon Chicken Pasta

ground black pepper and salt to taste

1 sliced onion

4-8 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms

2-3 lemons

1-2 cloves grated garlic

½ – 1 inch grated ginger

2-4 Tbsp soy sauce

1-2 tsp sesame seed oil

2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds

2-3 green onions, chopped diagonally into ½ – 1-inch pieces.

 

Preparation

  1. In a pasta pot/stockpot on stovetop, bring pasta to boil in water on high heat until al dente (almost done).  Optionally, add salt to water to flavor pasta when water starts to boil.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet on stovetop over medium-high to high heat. When oil is hot, brown chicken in skillet, turning only when chicken pieces release themselves. Flavor with salt and pepper. Once brown, remove and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet over medium-high to high heat, add 1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, along with mushrooms and onion. Sauté until onion is translucent.
  4. After veggies are sautéed, add chicken back in, along with lemon juice, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and sesame seeds.  Mix well.
  5. When noodles are al dente, drain water. Add noodles to skillet with chicken and vegetables. Stir and combine well. Mix in green onion. Serves 4-6 people.

 

Alternatives

Original Ingredient:

Replace With:

whole wheat noodles

brown rice pasta, semolina pasta, or any type of spaghetti pasta

extra-virgin olive oil

canola oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, melted butter/margarine, or non-hydrogenated non-dairy butter

chicken breasts

boneless chicken thighs, steak, pork loin, tofu, or mushrooms only

onion

any type of onion

shiitake mushrooms

any type of mushrooms

lemons

limes

garlic

⅛ – ¼ tsp garlic powder or 1 tsp minced garlic

ginger root

galangal or leave out

soy sauce

Shoyu soy sauce, gluten-free soy sauce, tamari sauce, or teriyaki sauce

green onions

¼ – ⅓ large container chives (chopped)

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Overcoming Life’s Difficulties & Ultimate Layer Dip Demo

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Vitamin D and Weight Loss

Sandbridge

Anyone out there need to shed a few winter pounds with swimsuit season upon us?

Did you know that combining vitamin D and calcium helps your body to maintain and regulate your blood sugar levels, feel full faster, burn fat, and store less fat, which in turn helps you lose weight? Of course you can get vitamin D from both the sun and in supplement form, but the best ways are to eat foods high in vitamin D.  The following foods provide excellent sources of vitamin D:

Fish – Raw fish typically contains more vitamin D than cooked fish. Look for fattier cuts. Also canned fish packed in oil will contain more than when packed in water.  Examples of fish high in vitamin D include raw or cooked Atlantic herring, pickled herring, canned or fresh salmon (raw or baked), raw or canned mackerel, canned sardines, oil-packed canned or fresh tuna, sushi, red and black caviar, oysters, and shrimp.

Fortified Cereals – Read labels to make sure there are no refined sugars or partially hydrogenated oils  included in the ingredients.

Fortified Soy Products - A double bonus – these foods are often fortified with calcium too. Look for fortified tofu and fortified soy milk.

Salami, Ham, Sausages, Bologna, Pork, and Bratwurst are also high in vitamin D. Be careful not to eat too much, as many are high in cholesterol and sodium.

Fortified Dairy Products - Not only are they high in vitamin D, but also calcium. Milk, cheese, and butter are foods to look for.

Eggs and Mushrooms – Slightly cooked white button mushrooms contain the greatest amount of vitamin D.

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