In this month’s issue of Northern Virginia Magazine, Cookology owner Maria Kopsidas was approached to give readers some advice on how to keep their New Year’s resolution, “Learn How to Cook.”  The thing is, Maria said *way* more than could possibly fit into the tiny confines of a magazine blurb…like she always does!

So below we’re publishing for your reading pleasure and culinary education – we are a cooking school after all – Maria’s full, unedited answers to Northern Virginia Magazine’s questions in which Maria delves into the food production industry, cooking techniques, the importance of family time, and how to regain control of your family’s nutrition.   

NOVA: Why is learning to cook an important resolution?

Maria: Not to be Debbie downer—and you have to understand I’ve not only worked for grocery manufacturers association, but I also have a certificate in the China Study at Cornell, and I read food industry articles for fun, so my knowledge of food goes beyond just being a cooking school owner for the past 10 years. Unfortunately, I know too much and I’m always watchful. For example, every year tons of food is recalled, mostly preprocessed food made in a factory—there was a massive chicken recall in September. There are unseen chemicals in packaging, relaxed standards on organic farming especially when produce is imported, questionable pesticides (Roundup) that scientists are linking up to cancer (Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma). Chicken is being farmed in the US but then shipped to China to be washed and packaged, and sent back to US manufacturer.  A report just came out that purveyors and butchers are cutting around the cancerous lesions in pork. Sadly, if you really start to look into it, you’ll find yourself in a panic wondering what it is you can eat.

So why is it important to learn to cook your own food? Control. Most of us in this area are Type A and think we have it all under control, except when it comes to what we eat. We need to let go somewhere right? I get it, but food these days can be the cause of a disease or the cure.  This doesn’t mean most high-end restaurants—or even great QSRs like Cava aren’t locally sourcing their own ingredients—they absolutely are, and you can taste the quality, but eating at home after sourcing and cooking your own food can make you feel healthy…and in control.

NOVA: What are three tangible tips for accomplishing your goal


  1. Make your grocery shopping trips robotic.  I shop at the same grocery store every week, which means I know exactly where everything is, I even know which check out person is the fastest. I can shop and check out in 30 minutes. I buy the same pantry, protein and produce items every week. This does a few of things: saves you time and money, and gives you all of the staples you need in terms of protein, veg and starch for at least 4 dinners, 4 school lunches, 4 breakfasts. I usually make one leftover dinner, and we have pizza night usually on Thursdays. One day of the week are flexible. I like to eat out, so I usually can talk all of us into going out at least one night per week. Yes I make the same thing every week for dinner because I know what my family likes. These recipes are tried and true, and will get everyone off their phone and to the table. When I try to make something that only I like, such as fish or a vegan dish, the girls start boiling water to make mac-n-cheese, or they don’t eat at all, which hurts my soul, so on weeknights it’s just their faves. My mother did the same thing and so did her’s. The key is to not be so hard on yourself, conquer four or five amazing dinner recipes and put yourself on autopilot when you come home after working all day in order to make dinner–each recipe should take you one hour. I start cooking at 6:30, with the intention of getting dinner on the table by 7:30. With your family all around you and everyone happily eating something healthy, you’ll believe you’re a shoe in for “mom or dad of the year” this year! It feels that good!
  2. For moist heat cooking, better known as saute or braising, heat your pans slowly. Don’t put the burner on high, then add the pan, then your oil and walk away to get your ingredients. Instead, gather all of your prepped ingredients, your spatula or spoon, put the pan on a cold burner, turn on the gas or electric heat on med to low setting and wait for the pan to heat. Take a deep breath. Here’s a trick: run your hand under the water in the sink briefly, flick that water off of your hand and into the pan, if the water rolls, your pan is ready. Add olive oil, butter, onions saute and relax.
  3. Test the temperature of your oven with an oven thermometer—not meat thermometer—those will melt. This was a hard lesson when I started out cooking. I spent a good year frustrated at my inability to get things the way my grandmother or mom baked or roasted. Then I moved to a different apartment and my new oven cooked everything perfectly. I keep a thermometer in my oven at all times—if it’s off I adjust accordingly throughout the dry heat cooking process (roasting/baking/broiling). You’ll be surprised how off your oven can be.

Now, as an added bonus, Cookology’s own Will Bushey sat down with Maria to delve further into what specific dishes Maria has on her go-to family meal list and, more importantly, is she willing to share her surefire recipes with the rest of us!  

Will: So in your interview in this month’s Northern Virginia Magazine, you say you make a lot of meals- the same meals- at home for your family. Which meals are those?

Maria: I make “Mommy Chicken,” Mommy Fish,” right? You’ve had my Mommy Chicken!

Will: Mommy Chicken is amazing, it was so good!  And I ate it cold, and it was still so good!

Maria: So when my daughter was little and I was working all the time, I’d rush home and I’d have like these five meals that I knew that she would eat. And then we’d order pizza on the sixth day, and then go out on the seventh day and that’s kind of been our whole thing, because you can’t, like, not go out.

So Mommy Chicken is basically lightly breaded chicken, it’s delicious.  And then that usually comes with homemade mac and cheese, and peas.

And then there’s Mommy Fish, which is lightly breaded wild caught salmon, that I buy frozen and then cut into strips, and those are my fish strips for her, because we don’t do anything boxed or premade.  And then that usually comes with spinach and some sort of pasta. She’s always getting a pasta because carbs are good for children’s brains

And I make a turkey burger, I make lasagna which I make half meat and half veg because I like to go more veg, and I like to bury the vegetables in the beef one for her so she doesn’t notice.

Then I do a one-pot chicken alfredo bake, and that’s freaking awesome, and to that I’ll add broccoli or some sort of sausage, like a chicken apple sausage; something’s that not with any pork, because we don’t eat pork.  

Occasionally I’ll throw in something new that I want to try, but pretty much it’s kind of like, “But why aren’t we having…” But we’ll have tacos, we’ll have quesadillas, and on the weekend breakfast we do waffles or pancakes, some sort of egg or egg and spinach, or something together. For lunch we’ll have paninis, we have a panini-maker, and I’ve been using my Instant Pot a lot, so I’ll put, like, all of my chicken and stuff from the taco meat in the Instant Pot and we’ll just try stuff.  And sometimes good things appear on the table some times we call Uber Eats.

So yeah, I think it’s just easier especially when you’re feeding kids, and you’re tired and you’re coming home from work just to have something down.  It’s mindless, and then when you go to the store you know exactly what you need. And now instead of going to the store, I’ve been ordering on Amazon Fresh, and I’ll order it at like ten-o’clock or eleven-o’clock at night lying in bed, ordering my food and getting it delivered to me at seven-o’clock in the morning so I can make her lunch for school the next day.  

Man, it makes the whole Supermom thing, like, so much easier.      

Will: Yeah it really sounds like it, those meals sound amazing.  Are you going to give us the recipes?

Maria: Like, right now in the middle of the interview?


Maria: Actually, because I believe in these recipes so much, and they’ve been such a help feeding my family consistently with our busy lifestyles, we’re actually going to be making videos of me teaching how to make those five dishes and posting them to our blog and to our social media pages.  I just think that because everything is so hectic these days and everyone is so busy, a lot of families have a hard time carving out that time to put the phones away, sit down together, and connect with each other around the dinner table. But if you have a set menu of go-to meals, and you’re not wandering around the grocery store trying to figure out what to get, then it’s a lot easier to have that sit-down family time, which, as a mother, I think is so SO important.  So, I’m not going to tell you the recipes, I’m going to *show* you. So stay tuned to our blog and our social media pages!