So as per request, from time to time I’ll be switching it up and writing about food.

It took me a long time to become comfortable in the kitchen.

I grew up in a house where dinner magically appeared on the table, and the most I ever got involved in the kitchen was to help lick cake batter out of the bowl. Believe me when I say that I’ve had more than a few kitchen mishaps (a particularly gingeriffic fish recipe and fried chicken legs that were completely raw near the bone come immediately to mind). But living with a man whose idea of an ideal diet consists of steak, potatoes, and French bread for dinner every night has brought out my inner Rachael Ray.

I cook dinner at least five nights a week, and the husband kicks in for one or two. We often wind up having friends over, and I enjoy having dinner parties. Through necessity, I’ve discovered a love for cooking I never thought I’d have.

For a while when I was in grad school, I’d just go to the grocery store with just a basic idea of what we’d eat for the week. Meat, milk, snacks, and some quick, easy side dishes. Then I’d come home from class exhausted, not wanting to cook, and I’d either throw something together or often, we’d wind up ordering in. That led to weight gain and throwing away lots of fruit and vegetables.

One Christmas my mother-in-law got me a subscription to Cooking Light, and it struck a chord with me. I stopped buying recipe bakes and six-minute noodle side dishes. I learned what quinoa and kefir and aspiration (AKA broccolini) were. I became completely obsessed with eating healthy, and I became a total dork about cooking.

Now, to avoid the “I’ve just come home from work and don’t know what to eat for dinner” dilemma, every Sunday I write up a detailed grocery list/menu for the week. I look at magazines, websites, and cookbooks for recipes that are healthy, delicious, and reasonably easy to make.

I have a shelf of cookbooks, but my three stand-bys are Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (I have the Bridal Edition), the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook (just about every Trini has a copy in their cooking arsenal), and a beautiful bound collection of my mom-in-law’s favorite tried-and-true recipes, that she made and sent to her kids. (I use it all the time, Mom!)

I find a lot of recipe and menu ideas online. I’m always looking for fresh and yummy salad recipes, like this incredible Summer Spinach and Strawberry Salad recipe from the Whole Foods website (pictured above), which I made this Monday and served alongside French bread and poached salmon with a dill sour cream sauce.

As you might expect, Cooking Light also has an amazing website, where I found this great article offering tips on making any dish healthier.

On my most stressful days of the week, I rely on my slow cooker and prepare something in the morning before I go to work. Still, I’m not completely blown away by most of the recipes I’ve made. I’ve made some delectable Carolina pulled pork (procured from the amazing Jancee Dunn’s website), and a great chili. But I need healthier options. So if any of you know of a truly great slow cooker book or website, holla!

I don’t exactly follow the regimen, but I love the new Weight Watchers magazine for it’s detailed recipes and weekly menu suggestions. I got an AMAZING recipe for jerk turkey lettuce wraps from the first issue, which made for a super healthy dinner last week. If you want the recipe, let me know! Also, I always look at Weight Watchers’ online recipe of the day.

Sometimes websites that aren’t necessarily all about food will feature a delicious surprise.

For example, I discovered this awesome panini recipe over at one of my favorite sites, You Make It Beautiful.

Recently I’ve discovered some incredible food blogs. Cooking with Herb St. Absinthe specializes in Cajun cuisine, Minimally Invasive features yummy recipes like this Moroccan Chicken Stew that I’m planning to make tonight, and Smitten Kitchen features sumptuous writing.

My favorite of all favorite food blogs is Trini Gourmet.

It combines Trinidadian culture and food into one delicious callaloo, and it’s my go-to resource for traditional island fare, like the ever-decadent macaroni pie and pelau.

Where do you get your recipe ideas from, bellas?

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1969 says:
March 21, 2007, 9:03 am
I cook every night too and love it. Trini Gourmet is a wonderful site. I get many recipes from Epicurious, Hungry Girl, Food TV...etc. My go to cookbooks (other than the ones you have listed) are Nigella and Ina Gartner's cookbooks. I love them.
Nerd Girl says:
March 21, 2007, 9:29 am
You cook 5 nights a week? Wow - that's truly awesome. I don't cook that often, usually 3 or 4 times w/enough for leftovers/lunches. I just started cooking 2 or 3 full meals on Sundays which is a little labor intensive, but makes for a much smoother week. Favorite recipe sources: Patti LaBelle's cookbooks (light and regular), Betty Crocker, Real Simple magazine and
NikkiJane says:
March 21, 2007, 10:03 am
I cook just about every night as well. For new recipe ideas I usually go to the Food Network website. They have TONS of recipes to choose from-from easy to the most diffucult. You can find multiple recipes for one dish. But usually I do cooking by trial and error. I keep trying until I can get it to taste right.
thope says:
March 21, 2007, 10:05 am
When I was a SAHM I realized I loved to bake. Cooking is still a challenge but I do make several very good dishes. For inspiration I go to Food Network where I love Paula Deen and Giada. I also found a fabulous new mag by Better Homes and Gardens called EAT that has many meal ideas, snacks, and stuff for kids.
Tabitha says:
March 21, 2007, 10:44 am
I learned to cook at my grandmother/great aunt's knee. My mother is very much a "just add water" kind of cook. I loooooooooooooove to cook. I can be sure that the person that prepared my food did so in a clean kitchen with clean hands, and it will always taste exactly the way I want it to. More than that, I like the process of starting with several small things and ending up with something spectacular.
Niki says:
March 21, 2007, 11:44 am
Thanks for the post Bella. I laugh at how many times my coworkers look on with disbelief about the fact that I cook for myself most days. I think they think a single woman who lives alone should be eating out of a tin can over the kitchen sink or something! LOL I love collecting cookbooks. The first one I ever bought was "The Betty Crocker New Cookbook". I subscribe to the Kraft Foods "Food & Family" website and I receive their full color recipe mag every couple of months in the mail. Sure, the hawk Kraft products, but the recipes are tasty, the ingredients are easy to find, and they always include a 'lite' option. I love Food Network and I bought Racheal Ray's "Express Lane" cookbook on a whim at the grocery store. I have made the Spinach-Artichoke Tortellini dish at least 3 times! It is so yummy. I also clip recipes from the Food section of the local paper as well. My great-grandma was an excellent down-home cook. She's been gone for almost 13 years but I swear I can still taste her chicken and dumplings!
Brunsli says:
March 21, 2007, 12:07 pm
I discovered a love for cooking in grad school too! I love the Rogers & Gray cookbooks. When I get new one, I read it cover to cover like a novel. I've taken a few hands-on cooking classes at the now defunct Home Chef and culinary schools as well.
Amy says:
March 21, 2007, 12:26 pm
Thanks for the link, Afrobella! I've subscribed to Cooking Light for probably 15 years and it's really helped me take my Cajun-inspired cooking to a healthier place. (Just remember to roughly double the spices they call for, as they have a tendency to keep things bland.) Hope you like the Moroccan stew!
cassandra says:
March 21, 2007, 3:06 pm
Cooking Light is a great source of inspiration and fun cooking. I especially like the Holiday issues, which help to refresh (and make healthier) old traditions and provide interesting ideas for leftovers. Sometimes I like to use some of their meal features to test out on a friendly dinner party. In the last couple of years, I've been using the South Beach cookbooks for recipes as I try to get my weight under control and train for marathons. A great blog for additional South Beach inspiration is Kaylyn's Kitchen. The asparagus recipes for spring are just magnificent.
AppleDiva says:
March 21, 2007, 3:28 pm
Bella, TriniGourmet is grreat!! She really gives good tips. I enjoy the "Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook". I have only made 3 recipes, as I am not a TT-ian, but my husband enjoyed the dishes I made. I am totally enamored with I found the best recipe for potato salad...wowoweewow!! Question for Trinis in the Midwest, do you all know of a place where I can find flavored peppers or a good substitute?
AppleDiva says:
March 21, 2007, 4:28 pm
oh oh, I think the peppers are called "pimento peppers."
Loretta Humphrey-Cruz says:
March 21, 2007, 7:07 pm
I keep an eye out for your posts and l'edol when I saw this one. Every morning I tell myself I'm going to cook a scrumptous meal for me and my husband. By the end of the day, I'm wiped out and end up eating Cap'n Crunch and he eats whatever he finds lying around. I'm obviously not the one to give you any advice on cooking healthy, but the woman I want to be (the one in my head) wanted to give you props for being a lot like her. I applaud anyone who finds cooking on a regular basis this easy and I don't recommend the Cap'n Crunch diet.
BigKim says:
March 21, 2007, 10:23 pm
I love your site. It is very inspirational. I check it out quite often. I like to eat and cook and in checking out crazy delicious, I thought about some sites I go to. One is Caribbean Child and the links she offers. Hopefully it will help.
Asha says:
March 21, 2007, 10:43 pm
I usually head over to for recipes. I'm very partial to Giada and Paula Deen. I too have the Naparima cookbook, but I also picked up "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago" from Amazon.
E-Fresh says:
March 22, 2007, 1:47 am
In the rare event that actually cook something, I get my recipes the old fashion way... I simply ask my mom (or my aunt). Speaking of food, I can't wait to get back to Miami in a week and get me some good old Cuban food! The Cuban food everywhere else is just not the same.
C~ says:
March 22, 2007, 6:14 am
hey, this is a girl's blog/website but she has a great recipe section and always ALWAYS posts up pictures/suggestions of what she's cooked/eaten that day. Yummy!
C~ says:
March 22, 2007, 6:15 am
oops i forgot to put the website. its Look out for the 'memo' recipes section!
julia_claudine_deveraux says:
March 22, 2007, 8:24 am
Bella, you are inspiring me to cook more! I only cook about 2-3 times a week and I have children. It's so hard balancing work and family life but I owe it to them to have a decent meal on the table. Thank you for this post Bella.
anjol says:
March 22, 2007, 8:29 am
I just started to get into cooking too. I get a lot of recipies from the Real Simple magazine and fron the website Recipezaar. I am really trying to master Southern cooking but I'm starting to think it is a gift not something you can learn.
LBellatrix says:
March 22, 2007, 10:44 am
Largely due to financial necessity, I'm having to cook a lot more these days. Good thing I actually enjoy it. Don't enjoy cleaning up after, though. I have to give a shout-out to Mark Bittner (aka The Minimalist, NY Times food columnist) and his cookbook How to Cook Everything. This book replaced Joy of Cooking in my house, which is saying something because it was through Joy of Cooking that I first began to experiment with cooking as a teenager. (I didn't grow up with one of those "cooking" moms.) I have yet to make a recipe from How To Cook Everything (or from The Minimalist column) that didn't turn out great.
Courtie says:
March 22, 2007, 2:18 pm
101 Cookbooks is a good website. It's got a lot of great vegetarian recipes. Not Eating Out In New York is good, too. is really great and it has a cool format.
Lucas says:
April 27, 2007, 2:10 am
I love to cook, but I was raised in the South and therefore am no good at cooking for any less than 4 people. Since I live alone, I just don't cook a lot anymore. But I recently discovered a great website, There are some amazing recipes. And, since I have some Mexican heritage, it's right up my alley. Hope you enjoy some of the healthy, and not so healthy, choices that this website offers.


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