Do I Like Cooking?

I am still not sure how to answer that question. I like eating in restaurants—that I am sure of. Over the last year or so, I have made more of an effort to cook. I am finding that, maybe, surprisingly, I do like to cook. One thing that has surprised me the most is my being able to loosen up if I do not have the precise amount of an ingredient. I am usually loathe to deviate from instructions but I am starting to be okay with adding extra of something I like or knowing it will still be good if I do not have enough of another ingredient. Do not get me wrong—I have barely scratched the surface of how to cook—but I am getting more comfortable with making a meal.

My exploration of cooking started with watching public television at my uncle’s house. When I visit, he normally has on channel 39 and we watch America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, and Lidia’s Kitchen. I started to notice that there are a lot of recipes that look impressive but could be made simply. Or, if not simply, at least in steps that I could understand. I began to pay more attention. At the same time, I signed up for emails from Kraft and Pillsbury. Their recipes were even simpler—readily available ingredients put together to make a good dinner quickly. A bonus for me—I like cheese a lot and it is in many of their dishes. I should mention that most of what I have made would not go into the “light” category. I was able to check out recipe books from the library for all the shows I enjoyed—
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook by Carly Tremblay
The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook by Carly Tremblay

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook (I am not a vegetarian but I like vegetables)

Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Bastianich
Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking by Lidia Bastianich

Lidia’s Favorite Recipes by Lidia Bastianich
Lidia’s Favorite Recipes by Lidia Bastianich

Here are links to a few of my favorite recipes (of the ones I have tried) and how to make my latest foray into cooking, a little-more-complicated recipe from my mom’s newest Food Network Magazine—Spicy Chicken Tortilla Chip Casserole.

Kraft Three Cheese Quiche

Pillsbury Chicken Enchilada Bubble-Up Bake

Roman “Egg Drop” Soup

Spicy Chicken Tortilla Chip Casserole
Spicy Chicken Tortilla Chip Casserole


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups salsa verde
3 cups cubed rotisserie chicken, skin removed
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh cilantro, plus more for topping
1 8-ounce bag tortilla chips, coarsely crushed (about 4 cups)
2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)


  • Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees F.
  • Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  • Add the scallions and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, cumin, oregano and cayenne and stir until coated.
  • Add the chicken broth and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salsa and remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the chicken, white beans and 1 cup cilantro.
  • Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Spread one-third of the crushed tortilla chips in the bottom. Top with half of the chicken mixture. Spread another layer of tortilla chips on top and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the remaining chicken mixture, tortilla chips and cheese.
  • Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until lightly browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes. Top with more cilantro.

—Andrea at the Hopewell Branch


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