Cooking with What?

Cooking with What?

The title of this blog is only partially meant to be funny – in sort of a “well duh, what else would you cook with?” way. But the inspiration came fromwriter Michael Pollan. In his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, he differentiates between “food” and “edible food-like substances.” He states that a lot of modern eating involves these edible food-like substances: not just candy and junk food, but meal-replacement bars, canned soups, tv dinners, etc. I like junk food as much as the next person (just ask my husband, Dave). But over the past few years, I decided that for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I would prefer to have something made out of actual food: vegetables, whole grains, identifiable meat, etc. And a lot of the time, to get a meal made out of only “food” and not “edible food-like substances,” that means cooking from scratch.

I have always enjoyed cooking. My first try was making a cake from scratch, out of a recipe I found in one of my mother’s cookbooks, when I was in junior high. Once I got married and moved out of my parents’ house, I began cooking dinner every day for myself and Dave, and packing us a lunch every weekday to take to work. I didn’t think much of it, but I see that this may be considered unusual. I don’t mean that in a bad way – nobody has said that this makes me weird. But some people are amazed that I cook dinner everyday, that I don’t eat cereal for breakfast, and that I pack lunches 5 days a week. I figured it would be fun to share some of my recipes with others, and also to show that cooking (mostly) from scratch isn’t as hard as you may think. With that, here is the first “episode” of Cooking With Food, followed by the recipe below.

Hot Chicken and Rice “Salad”
(Adapted from “Bean, Corn, and Pepper Salad with Chicken,” page 169 of The New American Plate Cookbook.)

Serves 3


  • 2 servings (1/2 cup) of brown rice
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup of salsa
  • 2/3 cup frozen corn
  • 1/3 cup dried black beans, cooked and drained (makes 1 cup cooked)
  • cheddar cheese
  • olive oil


  • The night before, cook black beans until tender (75 minutes in a pot of simmering water). Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Or just use a can of black beans, drained.
  • When ready to make the meal, cook brown rice on the stove according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, cook chicken breast in simmering water for 15-20 minutes. Cut in half, allow to cool slightly. Chop/shred into bite-sized pieces.
  • When rice is done, add in corn, beans and salsa. Drizzle in some olive oil (about 1 tbsp or to taste). Stir. Cook on low on the stove for about 5 minutes or until warmed through.
  • Scoop onto plates, top with shredded cheddar cheese, to taste.