5 Reasons I love Cooking with Cook Smarts

1. It’s fun.

I love that the menus give me a chance to be creative and indulge in some ‘play’ time – something we adults could do with a lot more. I have grown to love the rituals of chopping, stirring and tasting.

The private FaceBook community is the most positive corner of the internet

2. It’s delicious.

The menus are all chosen with seasonal produce in mind. This makes the food taste even better.

When you’re cooking you get to choose what you make and what goes into each dish. You also get to choose the quality of the ingredients. So it’s easy to make things that are the most delicious to you.

Think of it as a choose your own (culinary) adventure.

3. It’s good for your body.

The Cook Smarts team includes nutritional information for each recipe. They do a great job giving members the foundation and then for those who need a little more care they can incorporate the data into MyFitnessPal or other resources.

The more I learn about nutrition the more I’ve come to realize that the most important factor for healthy eating is to avoid processed food and focus on using real ingredients.

And the best way to do this? Cook for yourself as much as you can. But let’s be honest making the decision about what to cook is not always the most fun… especially when you’re doing it 365 days a year.

4. It’s good for the soul.

It gives me an opportunity to nurture my family and friends. To express my love and take care of them.

There’s something so moving about the kinetic experience of transporting my food from whole objects into a complimentary arrangement.

5. The praise!

As much as I’d like to think that all these lofty benefits were what first got me into cooking, really, it was the praise.

Hearing the words ‘this is delicious’ was a huge motivator for me to keep spending time in the kitchen.

Cook Smarts creates a range of educational cooking tools and information to empower and inspire home cooks. Visit their website for a range of free cooking resources, simple recipes and delicious weekly meal plans. Follow their adventures in healthy cooking on Facebook and Instagram.



50 Meal Celebration

Today I made my 50th meal with Cook Smarts! I feel like I deserve a badge! Or maybe I should get a new apron? Something to commemorate this incredible accomplishment.

A few years ago I set a goal to cook 40 new to me things. My intent was to create a set of interchangeable sides, main dishes, and vegetable concoctions. I desired to build meal plans seamlessly that would be nutritious, delicious and filling. I wanted to be able to put something on the table in about 30 minutes or less. That year, I think I made it to 12 new recipes and my husband was primarily cooking dinner most evenings.

The next year I set my goal at 20, reasonable expectations and all. That year, I might have made it to 16, or something like that. Again the next year I set the goal again, this time I surpassed it, but my husband was still making a majority of the dinner meals.

To my credit, I mill my own wheat and make bread from scratch, pasta from scratch, have a slam-dunk ragu recipe, a taco soup recipe that pleases the Texan in our home and have several hummus recipes that have incited marriage proposals. Throughout our dating relationship, engagement and marriage we set a fun tradition of cooking interesting or amazing meals together on the weekends. I knew I wasn’t inept in the kitchen. However, until recently my husband has been primarily the week night chef.

Back in February my friend Stephanie introduced me to Cook Smarts. I made my first meal on February 21, 2016. Life-changing-moment.

Tonight I made my fiftieth meal. I’ve struggled to adequately convey the boost to my confidence in the kitchen. On the Cook Smarts website they say, “We’re here to empower you with the know-how and tools to live your best life in the kitchen because a simple home cooked meal can be the source of greater health, happiness, and community.”

I genuinely anticipated that after my three month subscription ended I would be ready to move on and recreate the Cook Smarts experience solo. I certainly did not expect I would happily sign up for the annual subscription. I never intended to be a prolific ambassador for this company, but y’all… it works. Their system, program, subscription is incredible.

One of the first things I do on Thursday mornings is check the Cook Smarts website for the menu for the following week. Sometimes Jeremy and I are a bit skeptical about the menu, “cauliflower rice”? But every single time my expectations are overridden by a very fun try.

An unexpected benefit is the online community. The Facebook private group of Kitchen Heroes is one of the most positive places on the internet. Someone will express a kind word about a dish you felt particularly unsuccessful. Another cook will ask a question and immediately receive at least five helpful suggestions. One Kitchen Hero will have something odd happen and immediately, the community is there to help.

I have been impressed over and over and OVER again by this company. Their customer service experience is out of this world. They claim to be Kitchen Cheerleaders and they fulfill this role superbly.

It is so much more than a meal plan, a menu, cooking instructions or recipe guide. It is a community of like minded individuals who want healthier lives for everyone they meet. I am so delighted to participate.


Blackened Fish Tacos

Blackened Fish Tacos

I added a little sugar to the crust to ensure that it gets blackened and caramelized. The sweetness also balances nicely with the spices.

Serves 4

4 white fish fillets (such as halibut or tilapia), about 5 ounces each
Salt and ground black pepper
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Season both sides of fish fillets with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine sugar, paprika, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Mix well to combine spices. Rub spices all over fish fillets.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until fork-tender and blackened. Pull fish apart into 2-inch pieces and serve in tacos with desired fillings.

Read more at: http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2011/11/22/robins-healthy-take-taco-tuesday/?oc=linkback

Chipotle-Lime Chicken Taco Salad, Week 4

This is definitely my current favorite Cook Smarts meal. I love the flavor, simplicity and time it takes to make this dish! Basically, you mix the marinade/sauce- use half of it on the chicken as a marinade and half you add some sour cream and use it as a dressing! The biggest chunk of time on this meal is waiting 30 minutes (up to overnight) on the marinade!

Avocados, fresh tomatoes, tortilla chips, our favorite bibb lettuce- yes please!

Marinate the chicken in a spicy chipotle pepper, adobo and lime sauce- yes please!

They are really as good as they look- now that’s a plate of nachos!

One of us added cheese!

I tried to get the perfect combination of chip, chicken, tomato half, lettuce and avocado in every bite!

Tofu and mushroom lettuce wraps and pineapple coconut smoothie-Week 4 of Cook Smarts

This was really delicious! Apparently I was a bit scattered in making sure I had all of the ingredients out before I took my before shot, so you get two photos of the “before”. (That’s what I get for multi-tasking in the kitchen again!)

This beautiful line up along with the peanut butter became my peanut sauce. I love knowing exactly what is going into my sauces! I can adjust the heat, the salt, the acidity, the sweetness, everything myself and that is a power I do not take lightly!

Oh, crunchy peanut butter and peanuts, sure, why not!?  

I really appreciate being able to use more of the bag of frozen peas and carrots on this dish! Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the reduction in waste while using Cook Smarts! Even something as simple as a $1.00 frozen bag of vegetables being incorporated into multiple meals in the week!

Our thoughts and impressions:

~the pineapple and coconut smoothie was delicious, but we’re not big smoothie drinkers so, take it or leave it.
~we would prefer a creamy peanut butter and foregoing the peanuts
~I needed to squeeze more water out of the tofu so it crisped properly in the pan
~Mung bean threads or a wide egg noodle would be a marvelous addition to this dish.
~We’d definitely make this again with the aforementioned changes.