Week 2, Meal 2, Classic Tacos! with lettuce and avocado salad

Classic Tacos! with lettuce and avocado salad

This was my 5th solo Cook Smarts meal. We learned several things from making this recipe. I made this meal Wednesday evening.

  1. Multitasking in the kitchen is mostly a good idea. And what I mean by that is, I misunderstood how to season the ground beef. So what I’m saying is, multi-task with caution.

2. Tomato paste in a tube that allows refrigeration/storage = win.

3. Mixing in all the ingredients to the pan ahead of time and cooking them with the meat, reduces assembly time which means you get to eat faster. Win.

4. Definitely remove the seeds from the tomatoes to make “crushed tomatoes” at home.

5. We definitely want to subscribe to Cook Smarts for 3 months! I’ll be setting that up this weekend! Yay!

6. The avocado salad was incredible!

7. Neither the seasoning mix I’ve made from the Good Eats cookbook, the other one I tried,  or this recipe are quite right, yet. Although, to be fair I didn’t season this round properly so maybe that’s on me.

8. Following the directions on the box of taco shells + our oven = burnt shells. Burnt corn taco shells = ew, seriously, ew.


9. Next week in our cooking adventures I’ll be changing the serving sizes to two, we don’t quite have the containers to easily send leftovers for lunch in a manner that keeps them palatable. So we’ve been using leftovers for the following night’s dinner instead. As I’ve been having fun cooking new dishes we’re going to reduce leftovers and do something different for lunches..

4 servings

Taco Night:
Lean ground beef – 1 lb
Coriander – 3/4 tsp
Cumin – 1/2 tsp
Paprika – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Chili powder – 1/4 tsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Jalapenos – 2, diced
Onions – 1, diced
Iceberg bibb lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Cheese (opt) – 2 oz, grated (Like cheddar, Monterey, Colby)
Cooking oil – 2 Tbsp
Crushed tomatoes – 3/4 cup
Tomato paste – 1 Tbsp
Lime – 1/2, sliced into wedges
Taco shells – 8 (Use smaller tortillas if you prefer)
Sour cream (opt) – 1/2 cup
Salsa – 1/2 cup (Pick a tub of your favorite salsa.)

Iceberg Bibb Lettuce and Avocado Salad:
Iceberg bib lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Avocado – 1, cubed
Paprika – 1/4 tsp
Red wine vinegar – 1 1/2 Tbsp
Brown sugar – 1/2 tsp
Cooking oil – 3 Tbsp (like grapeseed, vegetable, or avocado)

*At their request I’m only including information that is part of their free content in my posts: ingredients list*

Week 2, Meal 1, Fish ‘n Chips or rather Fish Sandwich with kale ‘chips’

Original Recipe

Second week of using Cook Smarts menu/meal plan service. This is my second week of free meal plans, you just create an account and they are available to you! Yay!

Again, I’m really impressed with how smoothly the process is handled:
1)choosing the recipes,
2)creating a grocery list and
3)preparing the meals

I clicked a few buttons over the weekend, looked through my cupboards and I was quickly off to the shops! Ahhh my soul sighed.

This might have been my first meal using kale and making kale chips, but I’m not sure. I wouldn’t say I royally ruined these, I mean, they were edible, but they lacked the ‘wow’ factor of other favored dishes.

Also, not to be redundant, but I LOVE presenting a meal at the dinner table! I actually missed making a meal over the weekend. We prepared some fabulous dishes and ate fantastic food, but there’s something newly satisfying about bringing a meal to the table. (This may fade after the new wears off!)

This meal felt a bit involved for some reason, maybe it was because our oven is persnickety and I could only do one tray of kale chips at a time, so it took longer than it should have. Additionally, I chose to make my fish bites pretty small so this increased the number of rounds in my smaller pan.

The homemade tartar sauce was great. I wasn’t a fan of how often the recipe wanted me to add salt, so I reduced that.

All in all though, I’m very pleased with how this meal turned out!

I’ve decided that for next week’s menu, I’ll be signing up for a subscription! Yes! I’m so excited!

The whole recipe is available if you create an account, as they’ve requested I’m only listing out the ingredients here on my post.

4 servings Metric
Fish Sandwiches:
Tilapia – 4 fillets (Or use other white fish like cod. If you don’t eat seafood, try this with chicken thighs.)
Iceberg lettuce – 1/4 head, sliced
Flour – 1/2 cup
Egg – 1
Panko breadcrumbs – 3/4 cup
Cajun spice – 1 tsp
Cooking oil – 1 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp
Homemade tartar sauce – 1/2 cup (Ingredients listed separately)
Burger buns – 4 (If you can find kaiser rolls, those would be great!)
Kale Chips:
Kale – 1 bunch, leaves torn off of stems (Buy dino or lacinato kale if you have a choice. If you want to make a lot of kale chips, buy more than 1 bunch!)
Olive oil – 2 Tbsp
Tartar Sauce:
Mayonnaise – 1/2 cup (Substitute with Greek yogurt if you prefer. You may need to thin it out with some milk unless you like it thick and creamy!)
Capers – 2 Tbsp, chopped
Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp

Week 1, Meal 3, Turkey Meatball Lettuce Cups

with apple celery salad and quinoa


Once again, I was able to put a full meal on our table, in about 40 minutes! I made a few tweaks to the recipe, was able to use ingredients that I made yesterday today (salad dressing, adobo-honey sauce and quinoa!) That adobo-honey sauce is an incredible condiment. Spicy and sweet, but not too hot for me!

After a week of trying Cook Smarts and successfully making three complete meals by myself in. a. row. I think I am more than ready to say the subscription is worth it for me!  This was a tasty and filling meal and I’m already excited to eat it as leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

The edits I made to the recipe can be found in yesterday’s post (adobo-honey sauce) and below in blue. I didn’t really make that many substitutions to today’s recipe.

Make meatballs – Chop cilantro. Mix ground turkey meat with chopped cilantro, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and panko. Form into 1 ½” (4 cm) wide meatballs. If making ahead of time, place onto a plate and cover with plastic wrap. This should make about 8 meatballs. (Should be done up to 1 day ahead) (Totally did not see <— until I was making dinner, they turned out quite nicely!)

Quinoa (made last night!)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and then meatballs to heated oil. Sear top and bottom sides for 3 minutes each, until a golden-brown sear forms.
Pour chicken stock into pan, lower heat to medium, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Cook for another 8 to 12 minutes, until meatballs reach 165F (74C) degrees (you can also just slice through to make sure all the meat is cooked through).
Meanwhile, tear off 2 iceberg lettuce leaves / person. Wash and dry as needed.

(I ended up prepping certain parts of my salad before cooking the meatballs because I was delaying for optimal serving time)
Slice apples, celery, and green parts of green onions. If not done from last night, whisk together maple syrup, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When meatballs are done, slice each into quarters. (I totally forgot this step, so I served the meatballs whole and it was a bit awkward. We did remember the adobo sauce though! Oh well 🙂 ) Divide into lettuce leaves and have everyone drizzle on as much adobo-honey sauce as they want.

Toss apples, celery, green onions, and greens with vinaigrette. Enjoy lettuce cups, salad, and quinoa.

4 servings

Quinoa – 2/3 cup, uncooked

Apple Celery Salad:
Apples – 1, sliced
Celery – 3 stalks, sliced
Green onions, green parts – 2 stalks, chopped (If I remembered last night I would have kept my two green parts for tonight, but I forgot, so thankfully I had a few more green onions in my fridge!)
Salad greens – 6 oz (I used bib lettuce for this)

Dressing: (I retained extra from last night!)
Maple syrup – 1 tsp
Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
Apple cider vinegar – 1 ½ Tbsp
Cooking oil – 2 Tbsp

Turkey Meatball Lettuce Cups:
Cilantro – ¼ bunch, chopped
Ground turkey – 1 lb
Cumin – 1 tsp
Garlic powder – 1 tsp
Paprika – 1 tsp
Salt – ¼ tsp
Black pepper – pinch
Panko breadcrumbs – ¼ cup

Cooking oil – 2 Tbsp
Chicken broth stock – ¼ cup
Iceberg lettuce – 8 leaves
Leftover Adobo-honey sauce (from Tue) – 6 Tbsp

Serving Size 1 serving
Servings Per Recipe 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 453
% Daily Value
Total Fat 18g 28%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 63mg 21%
Sodium 749mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 13%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Sugars 12g
Protein 35g

Week 1, Meal 2, Adobo-Honey Chicken Kebabs

with cucumber salad and quinoa original recipe found here

*Once again, my notes will be indicated clearly and my edits to their recipe will be in blue. I’m documenting my first week experiment with Cook Smarts as I consider signing up for a subscription. When I indicated on their website that “I made this” to one of the recipes, I received an email the following day offering me a discount on my subsequent subscription. The subscriptions are already REALLY economical, but this was such a kind response by this team!

*This weekend we decided to make “meal 4.” And last night because we used our leftovers in a different pattern, I didn’t make a new meal. So… you’ll see their comments in the recipe below referring to “Wednesday,” and yes, today is Wednesday, but technically they call this meal the Tuesday meal. I really like the versatility and since we have all of the ingredients on hand, I can mix up the order I make the recipes.

They provide a tip: Smarts: Chipotle peppers are typically sold in adobo sauce. Divide and freeze in small portions so you don’t waste it.

Active: 40 min | Total: 40 min

Cook’s note: One of the really cool features, I think, on the Cook Smarts website is that once you collate your recipes for the week there’s a tab that says “weekend prep,” I highly recommend you check out this tab. It provides you with instructions for various parts of the four recipes that can be prepped ahead of time. So let’s say you don’t want to do a really involved meal during the week, you can prep certain components, leave them in the fridge and they’re ready day of! That’s a really well thought out feature!

Make adobo-honey sauce – This makes enough for tomorrow night (when they collate a set of recipes for the week, they appear to try to integrate similar ingredients so there’s less waste! We live in a modified tiny house, so I really appreciate this, it means we don’t need a huge pantry! Also, it should mean less thrown away, uneaten food!)
In a blender, (we don’t own a blender so I used our food processor) combine white parts of green onions, garlic clove, red wine vinegar, honey, adobo sauce, salt, and Greek yogurt (I’m using non-dairy coconut milk plain yogurt). Puree until well-blended. Season to taste with any of the ingredients. Reserve half for tomorrow night. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead) *Doubling this yielded 1 C*
Prepare kebabs – Slice chicken up into strips, long ways. You’ll want them to be ¾” (2 cm) wide. Marinate and tenderize with first part of adobo-honey sauce and thread skewers through chicken strips. You should make 2 kebabs / person. (Can be done up to 1 day ahead)
Quinoa – Double if making Wednesday’s dinner. (Or perhaps you already made this during your weekend prep!) Combine quinoa with 2x the amount of water (or stock if you prefer) in a saucepan. Add in some salt. Bring to a boil covered. Lower heat, keep covered, and cook until liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. If you doubled, reserve half for tomorrow night. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
Cucumbers / Iceberg living bib lettuce – Prep as directed.

(My sauce mixture yielded about 1 Cup when I doubled it, so I reserved 1/2 cup, but we only ended up using 1/4 cup in the recipe)

Whisk together maple syrup, Dijon, apple cider vinegar and oil (double if making tomorrow night’s dinner). Set aside.

If using an outdoor grill: Heat your outdoor grill up to 500F(or 260C) degrees. Brush grill grates with cooking oil and then lay kebabs over direct heat. Sear on opposite sides for 3 minutes each with cover closed. Then move to indirect heat, close cover, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until chicken is cooked to 165F (74C) degrees.

If using a grill pan: Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush pan with cooking oil and then lay skewers down on the pan. Sear on opposite sides for 3 minutes each. Then lower heat and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to 165F (74C) degrees.

If you don’t have a grill and you don’t understand the above directions… here’s what worked for me and a note of what I’ll try next time I make this. 

Today: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Assemble skewers on a roasting pan, and roast until done (our oven 14 minutes). 

Next time: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Assemble skewers on a roasting pan, right before moving the chicken to the oven, turn it up to broil, broil/roast until done, probably 10 minutes. (I think I would prefer the chicken to be a bit “blackened”.)

Take kebabs off pan or grill and brush immediately with some more adobo-honey sauce, and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Toss vinaigrette with cucumbers and lettuce. Enjoy kebabs with salad and quinoa. Feel free to use remainder of the adobo-honey sauce with the kebabs.

*We drizzled some adobo-honey sauce over the quinoa- so good!


This meal was fantastic I thought. The honey and adobo combination is this smoky, sweet palate delight. The quinoa was earthy and the flavors on the salad were a bit mediterranean-esq. I would make this meal again definitely.

4 servings

Quinoa – 2/3 cup, uncooked

Adobo-Honey Sauce:
Green onions, white parts – 2 stalks
Garlic – 1 clove, peeled
Red wine vinegar – 3 Tbsp
Honey – 2 Tbsp
Adobo sauce (usually found with canned chipotle peppers) – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Plain Greek coconut milk dairy-free yogurt – ½ cup

Cucumber Salad:
Cucumbers – ½ lb, chopped (probably due to the intense amount of fluid, I would remove the seeds next time)
Iceberg lettuce living bib lettuce – 1/3 head, sliced
Maple syrup – 1 tsp
Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
Apple cider vinegar – 1 ½ Tbsp
Cooking tasting oil – 2 Tbsp

Adobo-Honey Chicken Kebabs:
Chicken thighs – 1 lb, boneless, about 4 thighs

Adobo-honey sauce – 3 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp (Ingredients listed separately)

Skewers – 8 to 16 (If using flat skewers, you’ll just need 1 / kebab) We have twisted metal skewers, I used 4

NUTRITION FACTS (Information accurate to original recipe; Also, good to know: their food items can be found in my fitness pal. So if you do a food diary, track your meals, etc you can search for the recipe by name and it’ll add quite nicely! They also have a feature where you can figure out your Weight Watchers points for the meal if that’s something you’re curious about!)

Serving Size 1 serving
Servings Per Recipe 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 475

% Daily Value
Total Fat 18g 28%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 213mg 71%
Sodium 638mg 27%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Sugars 7g

Protein 49g

Week 1, Meal 1, Cooksmarts, Maple-Dijon Panko Crusted Salmon

Maple-Dijon Panko Crusted Salmon, with clementine, apple, and pecan salad (original recipe found: here; I’ve included content from their website but my edits are in blue)

We just finished meal number two and my husband’s direct quote was, “That’s the best meal you’ve ever made.” Well thank you my love!

I also enjoyed making it.

One of the things I really enjoy is that it is a complete meal. Over the years my skills in the kitchen have improved, but typically my cooking for meals looks like: wow here’s the main course, oh yea, we might need a vegetable?

For the two meals I’ve tried so far the 4 servings options makes dinner and the following day’s lunch. Win. Win.

with clementine, apple, and pecan salad

Active: 20 min | Total: 30 min

(They recommend: Smarts: This is an easy dish to double. Bake all the salmon and then pack up for freezing.)


Salmon – Divide fish up into 4 servings. Rinse and dry fish. Lightly salt (I didn’t salt because the dish calls for soy sauce) and pepper.
Crust – Chop parsley, I prefer Gordon Ramsey’s method where you roll all the leaves up together into a little tube and slice quickly, to their video instructions. Melt butter in the microwave (~1 minute 30 secons should do). Mix butter with Dijon, maple syrup, soy sauce, panko, and parsley.
Clementines / Apples – Prep as directed.

Preheat oven to 425F (218C) degrees.
Line sheet pan with foil and brush with some cooking oil. Add salmon and then divide and spoon crust onto fish. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes.
While fish is cooking, make vinaigrette by whisking together Dijon, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. (I didn’t add the salt because the dish calls for soy sauce)
When fish is ready, toss vinaigrette with clementines, apples, pecans and spinach. Enjoy salmon with your salad.

Cook’s note: because I went with the non-dairy butter for the crust (see below) the crust didn’t quite crisp like a crust would with dairy butter. The taste wasn’t compromised by my adaptation and my stomach is happier with this substitution, however the aesthetic is a bit off.

4 servings

Maple-Dijon Panko Crusted Salmon:
Salmon – 1 ¼ lbs 1 lb
Parsley – 3 sprigs, chopped
Butter Non-dairy baking stick – 3 Tbsp
Dijon mustard – 2 ½ Tbsp
Maple syrup – 1 ½ Tbsp
Light Soy sauce – 1 tsp
Panko breadcrumbs – ½ cup
Cooking oil – 1 Tbsp

Fall Clementine, Apple, and Pecan Salad:
Clementines – 2, peeled & segmented
Apples – 1, sliced or chopped, I sliced, but prefer sliced then chopped in half
Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
Maple syrup – 2 tsp
Balsamic vinegar – 2 Tbsp
Olive oil – 3 Tbsp
Pecans – 1/3 cup
Baby spinach – ¼ lb  5.0 oz container, stems removed

(Nutrition information is based on the original recipe)

Serving Size 1 serving
Servings Per Recipe 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 558

% Daily Value
Total Fat 33g 51%
Saturated Fat 7g 37%
Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 76mg 25%
Sodium 401mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 11%
Dietary Fiber 4g 17%
Sugars 18g
Protein 34g

Cooksmarts: an Experiment

My friend Stephanie recommended a website called Cook Smarts to me a few weeks ago, right in fact, before we were about to head out of town, away from our kitchen for two weeks. I was excited and disappointed all at once, I wanted to grocery shop and begin my experiment but I had to wait.

I will admit, I was skeptical, nervous that I wouldn’t like someone else’s recipe suggestions, but after grocery shopping and making meal number one, I might be hooked.

The website gives you three weeks (12 recipes) worth of content for free and then has insanely affordable subscription plan options going forward. I’ll be the first to admit that the concept of menu planning and grocery list compilation is a bit daunting. I love it how they do the planning for me. It’s so easy for me to think, I’ll make this chicken dish, this fish dish and this beef dish and find later that, because it was cheaper to buy larger quantities that I have all of these unused quantities in my fridge. OR worse so many leftovers, we don’t eat, because we’ve made so much we are sick of it. So, this concept of portion sizes and intentional planning are really attractive, especially when my frugal mindset cringes at the concept of waste.

Cooksmarts integrate similar ingredients across the recipes which means things will stay on my shelves for shorter amounts of time and with bulk (by weight) purchase options I can buy exactly what I need to for the week.  My friend said they try to plan the weekly recipes around in season fruits and vegetables to make it even more affordable.

For each recipe they give you variables such as 2, 4 or 6 servings per recipe as well as variations to change the content to paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian in addition to the original recipe. Our first recipe we chose the 4 servings and found the recipe actually made at least 6. So we’ll try the next three and then re-evaluate for next week to amend as needed. I really like the idea of making dinner and the following day’s lunch in one swoop.

Additionally I am impressed that they’ve integrated My Fitness Pal and Weight Watchers for each of the recipes. This is helpful to a wide range of individuals.

Preparing the grocery list was super simple, I merely copied and pasted the list into our grocery list app. It arranged all of the ingredients by category and this would have made grocery shopping easy if our store were arranged similarly!

We went in circles a bit on the shopping trip, but we were both excited that we spent a long, LONG time in the produce area of the grocery store!

I need to go back out tomorrow to pick up the salmon, as I wanted to buy that super fresh, and we’ll be trying a non-dairy yogurt for another recipe which meant going to a different store altogether. Before those purchases our grocery bill for these 4 recipes (8 meals) is just over $60. That seems really reasonable for the variety we’ll be adding to our menu.

Meal 4, week 1, Cooksmarts, Stir-Fried Udon Noodles

Meal 4: STIR-FRIED UDON NOODLES, with Chicken and Broccoli

Active: 30 min | Total: 30 min

(All of the materials in black are taken from the cooksmarts website (free material). I’ve added my notes and comments in blue. I appreciate how they give suggestions to conserve time on the day you’re cooking, perhaps you like to batch your food prep- easy peasy!)

Make marinade – Mix together first part of soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar.
Chicken – Slice chicken, cover with marinade, and tenderize with a fork. (Can be done up to 1 day ahead)
Garlic / Green onions / Broccoli – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)
Udon – Cook udon noodles according to packaged instructions. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)

1. Whisk eggs.
2. Place broccoli in a microwave-safe container. Cover with a wet paper towel and microwave for 2 minutes 30 seconds. This just helps the broccoli cook way faster later. (I thought this was such a great idea!)
3. Heat a wok over medium-high heat. (we used a regular skillet as we do not have a wok and it worked just fine!)  Add in first part of oil and then chicken to heated oil. Toss and cook until golden on the outside and cooked in the inside (just slice a piece open to tell). Remove from wok and set aside.
4. Return wok to medium heat. Add in second part of oil and then garlic, white parts of green onions, and whisked eggs to heated oil. Lightly scramble.
5. While the eggs are still runny, toss in broccoli, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until broccoli is cooked through, tender but with a crunch still.
6. Add noodles, chicken (and all the juices), second part of soy sauce, and rice vinegar to wok. (We put all of these into our serving bowl and added the broccoli to the serving bowl as our skillet was too small). Toss until everything is coated. Finish with lemon juice, and season to taste with more soy sauce or even hot sauce (like Sriracha). Serve with green parts of green onions.

4 servings (I’m not sure how they figure 4, we think it’s closer to 6 with the original numbers indicated below, so our edits bring the recipe closer to our 4 serving amounts)

Chicken and Broccoli Udon:
light Soy sauce – 1 Tbsp + 2 Tbsp (I’d halve and quarter these amounts so: .5 Tbsp and .5Tbsp; Jeremy recommended that the second portion is unnecessary entirely).
Fish sauce – 1 Tbsp (Ew, seriously, ew!)
Brown sugar – 1 Tbsp
Chicken breasts – 1 ¼ lbs, sliced (3/4 lb would have been fine and we prefer chicken thighs, and sliced to bite size)
Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
Green onions – 3 stalks, chopped, white and green parts separated
Broccoli – 1 ½ lbs, chopped (3/4 lb would have been fine, again chopped to bite size)
Udon noodles – ½ lb (Look for these in the ethnic aisle) (accidentally used 14 oz-great amount)
Eggs – 2 (could have increased this to 3)
Cooking oil – 1 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp
Rice vinegar – 1 Tbsp
Lemon – ½, juice of

NUTRITION FACTS (according to the non-edited recipe)
Serving Size 1 serving
Servings Per Recipe 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 579

% Daily Value
Total Fat 15g 23%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 202mg 67%
Sodium 2093mg 87%
Total Carbohydrate 60g 20%
Dietary Fiber 7g 29%
Sugars 7g
Protein 52g

The udon noodles came in small 7 oz packages. I stabbed both of them with a fork to microwave before re-reading the directions to realize we only needed 1. So… we doubled the noodles and really liked how it changed the recipe for the better.  

For our first experiment using this service, I’d give it a B+. The flavor combinations were excellent, the meal was really fast to make and we enjoyed eating it. The ratios were incongruent to our eating patterns so there’s going to be way too much food even with both of us eating it as lunch tomorrow.

Stay tuned for meals 1-3!