Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Holla Hump Day

Today my shout outs are very specific and very lovely. I must acknowledge two women who have had a significant influence over my kitchen in the past month. It's no secret that I'm not a cook. Everyone has their strengths. I can follow a recipe, but as I've learned that is often not something to be proud of. I was stuck in a rut of bland food and frustrating dinner times while also shaking my head because I FOLLOWED THE RECIPE WORD FOR WORD! Why doesn't anything seem to taste all that great?

Over the past few years I have meal planned like someone might diet. The yo-yo approach was nothing short of failure in my eyes, but I couldn't figure it out. Pinterest is overflowing with meal plans, recipes, and even general food knowledge. I even have a board called "general food knowledge". Nothing seemed to work or stick. I tried A Dinner A'fare and truly loved it. Who wouldn't? Someone puts the food and recipe together for you and you just make it. Brilliant. But, I wanted more control over the actual food. I wanted to know exactly what the ingredients were and where the food was coming from. So, I went back to the drawing board.

Sort of at the same time two different meal plans jumped out at me for different reasons. The first came from Lisa Leake at 100 Days of Real Food. I've followed her blog for a while and I always look forward to her well researched posts. For whatever reason I never realized that she has free meal plans available. I printed out the free plans for five weeks and got started.

Here are the things I love about Lisa's meal plans:

1) She uses REAL food. That's kind of the point of her blog.

2) Often times with real/organic/vegetarian recipes there are many weird and obscure items that I find it irritating to buy. Lisa's plans, for the most part, involve items I already buy. Plus, now that I use Vitacost I can get pretty much whatever my local store doesn't carry. For instance, she suggests a certain kind of crackers and cereal that I can't find at Kroger. Whole Foods makes me crazy. Vitacost has both items. Done and done.

3) Her recipes don't have eighteen ingredients. She is realistically cooking for a family of four. She knows that my situation doesn't involve the time or the energy to get a multitude of items together to feed my family. That picture up there was actually our dinner last night. My girls usually don't eat pasta much. Lila scarfed it down and Evie took two bites and bailed. You can't win 'em all, but in my book someone else eating all of their dinner besides me is a win.

4) The recipes are good. They are basic, easy, and tasty. This appeals to everything about me as a person who has to feed other people but isn't a good cook.

The second virtual cooking teacher and lovely person I want to give a shout out to is Jess Dang of Cook Smarts. I have already spoken some about Cook Smarts and the Meal Planning Awareness work that Jess does. I started with the Meal Planning Awareness work of actually learning how to cook, and have recently added the Cook Smarts meal plans to my small meal planning notebook.

What I love about the work Jess has done:

1) I have only actually tried one recipe from the Cook Smarts meal plans. When I got them I was already in a groove with Lisa's plans, and I didn't want to disrupt my flow. However, the one recipe I have made was amazing. It was actually one of the first that came in an email through the Meal Planning Awareness month.

2) Jess has taught me to look at my kitchen, my cooking, and my approach to food differently. I have learned so much random information that I probably already should have known. For instance, she talks about avoiding bland food. She says the best way to avoid a recipe going the bland route is to taste while you cook. WHO KNEW? Probably everyone but me. That's okay though. I always just assumed that if you follow the recipe the food will be good. The thing is, as I learned from Jess, everyone has different tastes. The creator of the recipe may think it isn't bland, but I may taste it differently. Spice and flavor as you go!

3) Jess has created videos about everything from purging your pantry to basic food prepping. There are so many! For someone like me who has a lot to learn these videos are beyond helpful.

4) The Cook Smarts meal plans are customizable. You can personalize them if you are gluten free, vegetarian, or on the paleo bandwagon. They too have a normal number of ingredients that are normally found in a kitchen.

5) This last one is sort of superficial, but the Cook Smarts website is beautiful, inviting, and makes me very hungry.

There you have it! My big, fat shout out to two lovely women who strive to help others live better, eat better, and cook better.

Happy Hump Day!


  1. Jana - I'm going to have to check these out. I wanted to mention another similar site - The Fresh 20. I had a friend who is a non-cook absolutely love the site and the menus.

  2. I just want to give a Holla Hump Day shout out to Katie Bean. I am so grateful that she watches Ashley every day and provides her with a loving, educational, and fun environment. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    1. Nicole, coming from someone who used to watch Katie's child, it means just as much to her to have the opportunity to watch Ashley and stay home with her own kids too!

  3. Jana, Thanks for such a lovely post about me and Cook Smarts. I so appreciate the kind words! xxx, Jess


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