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.


Slow Cookin’ Peanut Clusters with Chef Walter

On December 23rd, I was featured with my good friend Chef Walter on WVLT Channel 8 in Knoxville. In this video, I show you how to make my Slow Cookin’ Peanut Clusters. I hope you enjoy!


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Christmas Sale & Free Recipe (Buffalo Chicken Pizza)

Be Your Own Chef II:
Cooking with Fresh Ingredients & Dietary Substitutions in Every Recipe

      • Inspiring you to be creative in the kitchen with each recipe you make.
      • Suggested ranges for most ingredients so that you become the chef and make each recipe your own.
      • Alternative ingredients for every recipe. Many recipes include some of the same ingredients, saving you time and money and  preventing wasted food.
      • Alternatives for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free eaters, among others.
      • Tips sections offer tidbits about food preparation and storage, how to save a little money, and more.


Download your FREE recipe here: Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Purchase Be Your Own Chef II for $25 & receive the original Be Your Own Chef cookbook for 1/2 OFF.

BYOC 1&2

Purchase 2 or more copies of Be Your Own Chef II & receive Be Your Own Chef for FREE!


Christmas Special











If you just want to purchase Be Your Own Chef, each is available at regular price. However, you will also receive a free copy of the PDF eBook version, as well!

recipebook covers(c).inddBe Your Own Chef
$17.00 (plus shipping)
180 pages, over 125 recipes, and 11 chapters filled with recipes, tips, and alternative ingredients!

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I am so very sorry for my absence!!

I know it has been a very long time since I have posted any new recipes, blogs, or anything else on my website. I am so very sorry to all of you who have kindly subscribed to my website wanting recipes and other insights I add to it. I know it has been a few years and for that I am so very sorry. Life has been a roller coaster the past couple of years which some of you have probably read about in my blogs I have posted on here. Also having a very active 1 1/2-year-old has not given me much time to dedicate to this as I would like. I was forced to step aside for a while to focus on him as well as my health. I do plan on adding more new recipes and other stuff real soon so please do not forget about me. I hope you all are doing well and look forward to coming back strong and hearing from you very soon!


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Special Sale!

Special Sale!

Purchase Be Your Own Chef II for regular price & receive the original Be Your Own Chef for $10 (regularly $16.99).  

Plus, when you purchase Be Your Own Chef & Be Your Own Chef II, receive the PDF eBook version of both books absolutely free!

Be Your Own Chef II coverrecipebook covers(c).indd


If you just want to purchase one book, each is available at regular price. However, you will also receive a free copy of the PDF eBook version, as well!


Be Your Own Chef
$16.99 (plus shipping)
180 pages, over 125 recipes, and 11 chapters filled with recipes, tips, and alternative ingredients!

recipebook covers(c).indd  



Be Your Own Chef II

Cooking with Fresh Ingredients & Dietary Substitutions in Every Recipe
$24.95 (plus shipping)

Be Your Own Chef II cover

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Asian Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Chef Walter

Recently, I had the opportunity to join Chef Walter in the kitchen and make some tasty Asian Style Chicken Lettuce Wraps.


¼ cup canola oil (divided)

4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into small bite-size pieces

salt & ground black pepper to taste

½ – 1 medium onion, diced

½ – 1 red bell pepper, diced

½ – 1 inch ginger root, grated

1-2 cloves garlic, grated/chopped

1 head iceberg/Romaine lettuce (2-4 leaves/person)

2-4 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp – ¼ cup soy sauce (low sodium)

½ – 1 cup peanuts (no salt added), finely chopped

½ – 1 (8 oz) can water chestnuts, chopped

2 Tbsp – ¼ cup fresh cilantro (2 tsp – 1 Tbsp dried)



  1. In a wok/large skillet over medium-high to high heat, add 2 Tbsp canola oil and brown chicken. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Once brown, remove and set aside.
  2. In the same wok/skillet, add 2 Tbsp canola oil. Sauté onion and bell pepper until onion is translucent. Flavor with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back in.
  3. Add ginger, garlic, green onions, and soy sauce to the wok/skillet.
  4. Mix in peanuts, water chestnuts, and cilantro.
  5. Serve in lettuce cups. Serves 4-6.



Original Ingredient:

Replace With (use exact measurements from above unless otherwise noted below):

canola oil

grapeseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, or vegetable oil

boneless skinless chicken thighs

boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork loin, steak, extra firm tofu, or Portobello mushrooms (bite size pieces)


4-6 shallots

red bell pepper

mild peppers (cubanelle, poblano, or Anaheim), medium heat  to hot peppers (fresno, jalapeño, chipotle in adobo,  serrano or habanero peppers), or any type of pepper

ginger root

galangal or leave out

garlic cloves

⅛ – ¼ tsp garlic powder or ½ tsp minced garlic

iceberg/Romaine lettuce

butterhead/Bibb lettuce, any type of cabbage leaves, or any type of tortillas

green onions

8-20 chives (chopped)

soy sauce

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


any type of nuts

water chestnuts

½ – 1 cup bamboo shoot or jicama




–       To maintain longer freshness, gently wash and dry herbs. Place in a jar or vase with water, and store in a cool location away from direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate.

–       Simply grate garlic with a zester/grater to make garlic paste.

–       For an alternate way to make garlic paste, peel and finely chop garlic. Add a pinch or two of salt on top of garlic and rub garlic repeatedly with sides of knife.

–       Rub fingers on stainless steel underneath water to remove garlic smell from hands.

–       Mashing/cracking garlic first allows for easier peeling.

–       When buying garlic heads, look for ones that are tightly held together, firm, and have no give when you squeeze them in your hand.

–       Place dried herbs in mortar and pestle and gently crush to draw out flavor. If you do not own a mortar and pestle, gently rub herbs with both hands.

–       Store dried herbs and spices away from heat and sunlight.

–       Store oils in a dark cool place away from heat sources and sunlight.

–       Remove ribs and seeds of jalapeño peppers to reduce heat.

–       Store any type of pepper in a brown bag and place in the crisper in refrigerator.

–       To reduce spiciness in a dish, add a little sugar.

–       To reduce that burning mouth sensation from spicy foods or hot peppers, drink milk or eat a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt, ice cream, or sour cream. Never drink water, carbonated beverages, or hot tea or coffee to relieve the burning sensation.

–       Wash lettuce just prior to eating.

–       Store onions and shallots in a warm location away from sunlight. Storing onions in the refrigerator causes them to become soft, mold faster, and alter the taste of other produce.

–       To peel ginger, use tip of spoon and scrape. Store peeled ginger in a resealable bag in freezer to maintain freshness. Do not store in pantry or refrigerator, as it will dry out faster.

–       Use zester/grater to grate ginger.

–       Due to their high concentration of oil, it is best to store nuts in freezer to maintain longer freshness.

–       To maintain longer freshness, wash green onions/chives/cilantro immediately when you bring them home from the store. Dry off and store wrapped up in paper towels in a resealable plastic bag in refrigerator.

–       Pair cilantro with mint and/or other herbs to reduce intensity of the cilantro flavor.



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Peppermint Bark – Cooking Demo with Chef Walter

Recently, Chef Walter invited me back to demonstrate my Peppermint Bark recipe on WVLT TV in Knoxville, TN.


24 oz dark chocolate chips

½ – 1 bag mint chocolate candies

1-2 tsp peppermint extract

5 candy canes, crushed


  1. Lay wax/parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.
  2. Make a double boiler (if you do not have one) by filling a saucepot with 1-2 inches of water and set to medium heat to simmer. Add a glass bowl inside saucepot. It should sit down in the pot but not touch water.
  3. Melt dark chocolate and mint chocolate candies in the double boiler. Stir often while chocolate is melting. Once melted, remove from heat.
  4. Stir peppermint extract and crushed candy canes into melted chocolate.
  5. Pour ingredients from the double boiler onto the wax/parchment paper on cookie sheet. Use a spoonula/rubber spatula to spread evenly to about ¼-inch thick.
  6. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is hardened. Break into small pieces. Serves 8-12.



Original Ingredient:

Replace With (use exact measurements from above unless otherwise noted below):

dark chocolate chips and/or mint chocolate candies

semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, non-dairy chocolate, or any type of chocolate chopped with a serrated knife

peppermint extract

peppermint oil or crème de menthe

5 candy canes

10-15 peppermints (crushed)



–       If you cannot make a double boiler, melt chocolate in a saucepot on stovetop over medium heat, stirring often

–       For a quick way to make this dessert, simply put chopped chocolate in a microwave bowl and melt until smooth.

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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


recipebook covers(c).indd








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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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