The Cook Within

Some days, I feel like I’ll never be able to put a meal together on my own.

Most of the time, I am working from some recipe, even if I make little tweaks based on what I have or what I want at the time.

There aren’t many times when I have nothing in front of me, and I just cook. I guess I’m still just a little scared to just make something up as I go.

What if we hate it?

What will we eat if it’s inedible?

Am I sure these flavors go together?

Tonight’s dinner was put together as I was moving around the kitchen in my own little world, and it actually turned out well.

Maybe I am a cook after all.

Chef, no. But cook? That sounds pretty good to this girl who didn’t cook at all 5 years ago.


I had some shrimp and a can of artichokes in brine, and I knew I wanted to work with those.

Before I knew it, onion, lemon, garlic, white Black Box wine, parsley and olive oil were on the counter.

I cooked a cup of Israeli couscous to have as a base – have you ever had Israeli couscous? We love it – it’s so puffy and doughy compared to the smaller, grainy couscous.


Shrimp and Couscous with Artichokes and Lemon

  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 can artichokes in brine, drained
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • parsley
  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 2 cups water
  1. Bring water to a boil in saucepan and add couscous. Let simmer 5-10 minutes, fluff with a fork, and let sit covered until ready to eat.
  2. While couscous is cooking, heat pan over medium heat and add a bit of oil.
  3. Add in onion and garlic and let soften.
  4. Stir in artichokes to heat through.
  5. Stir in wine and let cook 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add in shrimp and cook until they are just pink and starting to curl.
  7. Stir in lemon zest, juice, and parsley.
  8. Spoon over couscous.


I also used Panko for the very first time tonight – what a great texture! They’re almost like teeny tiny potato chips. Thin and crispy, they made a great stuffing for some roma tomatoes I needed to use.

I cut 2 roma tomatoes in half, scooped out the membranes/seeds and mixed the seeds with some panko, 1 tsp olive oil, parsley, garlic, and basil.

Then I just stuffed the mixture in the tomato halves and baked at 400 for about 10-15 minutes while the couscous and shrimp cooked.


I can’t wait to use the leftover shrimp + artichokes in a meal tomorrow night. I already have an idea for them, which is rare.

Something has gotten into me today with cooking, and I’m not sure what it is…but I like it.

Maybe I’ve finally found the cook within?

Maybe all those years of just making boxed mac’n’cheese, no bake cookies, and grilled cheese sandwiches are finally adding up to something.

Believe me…if I can cook, anyone can. I’m living proof of that, some days.

Of course, you didn’t get to see my first try at a layer cake :) That was pre-blog, and that’s probably good because it was not pretty. We still ate it, but it was crooked and wouldn’t stay together.

Maybe I’ll even try another layer cake soon.


Have you always cooked or been in the kitchen? Or is cooking and creating meals new to you?


  1. I’m definitely not a cook. I’m a complete baker. I like measurements and recipes :-)

  2. Yep! Always in the kitchen :)

  3. Those tomatoes look wonderful! I’ll have to try out some Panko :)

    When I lived with my parents, I wasn’t much of a cook. Once I moved out and had to start cooking for myself, I found I loved it!

  4. I’m a cooke. I learned to cook early on because my mom worked two jobs and I was left alone a lot.

    I enjoy recipes and making tweaks.

  5. It’s gorgeous! I would totally hire you to come cook me dinner right now :)

  6. I always tend to use a recipe as a guideline too. I think I let myself be intimitated by the cooking skills I see on TV and doubt myself. Or maybe I am just not creative enough. Either way I still enjoy the process of cooking and eating the end result!

  7. when i was younger i would make random meals (rice veggies and spices as a base)
    my family would call my creation “kalin food”

    i think sometimes i still make kalin food… :-)

  8. BRAVO! what a great creative concoction. i have ALWAYS cooked, i used to have a “restaurant” called “janetha’s place” and i would write menus and hand them out to my family and neighbors. hahah.

  9. That looks fantastic!! Way to go! Isn’t panko the best?! I love the stuff!

  10. i just love cooking – I feel like I grew up in the kitchen :D

    What an amazing dinner you put together!! seriously the couscous and the shrimp looks fantastic!

  11. You did a wonderful job on dinner – I love nights with no recipes planned – I find that it really lets the creative side of me out through food, as weird as that may sound? I love Israeli cous cous, the texture is so fun, totally agreed!

  12. That looks wonderful!

    I have always been in the kitchen. I am Italian. I think it is in the blood — we all love cooking. And eating!

  13. Brandi! Of course you can cook! Hello? Have you seen your blog? You make some of the most fantastic meals! I love this shrimp and artichoke recipe – sounds good and simple. Thank you for giving me another way to use my Panko breadcrumbs!

    Cooking and creating is new to me. I still like to rely on recipes but I have been making my own tweaks and slowly coming up with my own.

    Enjoy your night!

  14. i dont think i’ll ever be a chef either, just a cook, tho i don’t think i’m very good at it!

  15. Wow, that dinner looks fantastic and gourmet! Definitely the sign of a good cook ;) Cooking is definitely new to me–I was afraid to boil water before coming to college! haha

  16. That looks delicious, and don’t forget, you won a recipe contest, you ARE a cook!

    I’ve always had an interest but my technique is pretty poor. I have fabulous recipe ideas though.

  17. i am always like that when i make new things, and have always been afraid to use spices from scratch with the fear i’d mess up the meal and have wasted ingredients. but it looks like you’re doing great!!!

  18. Is this what you come up with when you’re bemoaning that you can’t cook? My, my, then what comes up when you think you CAN cook? This meal is incredible…Literally a gourmet meal from a blank slate!

  19. Looks great- I LOVE Israeli couscous :D

    I used to cook a lot, just throwing stuff together and hoping for the best. Now my recipes are far more simple and straightforward…unless I am baking. Then I use someone else’s recipe and follow it to the T. Too many baking disasters have happened in my hands :P

  20. I’m a terrible cook!
    Like you said, I have no idea what to do or which flavors go well together. Sometimes I start all confident and mid cooking I get nervous and end up doing a mistake or forgetting an important ingredient :p
    Those tomatoes look delicious!

  21. I have always loved to cook, not granted, my tastes have really changed. I am pretty much self taught as well since my mom isn’t really that great of a cook.

  22. I love to cook and be in the kitchen, but I get nervous too. I’m always so scared of wasting food. I’ve finally realized the best way to learn is by trying, and if something doesn’t work out, there’s always cereal or PB & J in a pinch

  23. Isn’t it so freeing to have the creativity to make your own meals? I’m not there yet but am gaining in creativity as time goes on.

  24. You’re definitely a cook! Hello…Pumpkin Stuffed French Toast. :) This meal looks fantastic, especially the tomatoes.

    I am about 50/50 these days of using a recipe vs. just winging it. When I’m winging it, as well, I usually have a recipe or food I’ve seen somewhere else as an inspiration and I just go from there.

    You should try a layer cake again! I love to bake and always thought I was a better baker than cook, but lately all of my baking adventures have pretty much been failures so I am rethinking that assessment. I think with baking, practice really does make perfect and I am RUSTY!

  25. That looks great! I love meals like that that just come together. Doesn’t happen for me too often but I love it when it does!

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