Ellen: Cooking Like a Kitchen Rock Star

I cook because cooking is healthier and cheaper than eating out or eating processed food. – Ellen

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We’re so excited to feature our first Kitchen Hero who is also a family member of one of the Cook Smarts team! Kitchen Hero Ellen is Jess Smith’s sister-in-law (that’s Jess’ husband Frank and twin daughter Molly in the photo above!), and Jess has been so proud of Ellen’s cooking accomplishments, we knew we had to feature her story this week.

Although Ellen is no cooking newbie, she discovered that there was a huge difference between following recipes and actually learning how to cook. By learning the fundamentals of cooking, this Kitchen Hero now cooks like a rock star and makes her family proud . . . and her coworkers jealous of her delicious, healthy, homemade meals! 😉 Read more in her Hero in the Kitchen story below.

Name: Ellen Smith
Age: 37
City, State: Lake Ridge, VA
I cook for: me!
Outside of the kitchen I: work for an environmental nonprofit.
If I had to eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be: pasta.
I cook because: cooking is healthier and cheaper than eating out or eating processed food.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Sriracha-Honey Shrimp

HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?

Really Cook Smarts has been how I have *learned* to cook. Before this, I would choose recipes from Pinterest. I can follow directions, but I don’t think I learned anything and I needed very detailed instructions that a lot of those recipes do not provide. I have learned so much from Cook Smarts. How to properly cut veggies and the instructions are detailed enough that I can understand them and not guess.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE?

I have two. Timing and temperature. I am not good at getting everything I need ready so I end up rushing around and stressing, trying to time everything and measure everything while it’s in progress. I have plans to buy a bunch of little bowls so I can measure things out and dump them in like they do on the cooking shows. 😉 For some reason my oven and stove are never the right temperature to match the setting I am on, so I often over- and undercook things.


I have made a few recipes many times so I don’t need to look at the directions at all. That makes me feel like a kitchen rock star for sure.


How has your cooking routine changed since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?

I am excited to go to the grocery store (which I do every Sunday morning now) and shop mostly around the edges where the real food is. I am always surprised at how low the bill is. What has changed the most is I don’t have to make last minute decisions which are generally bad decisions; I always have leftovers for lunch and my coworkers are always jealous of them.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROUDEST KITCHEN MOMENT.

Because I started knowing pretty much nothing, I have had so many. What comes to mind first, was when I realized I was able to make adjustments on my own and not just follow recipe word for word. Also, I have made a few recipes many times so I don’t need to look at the directions at all. That makes me feel like a kitchen rock star for sure.

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR HEALTH AND SUCCESS IN THE KITCHEN?

Try meals that are outside of your comfort zone, even if you don’t think you will like them. I have discovered I like a lot more flavors than I thought I did. Be ready for the week. Having everything you need. Even if you can’t, prep is such a time saver and makes you feel less stressed. One less thing to worry about.


Thanks so much for sharing your cooking story with us, Ellen! Jess S has been telling us all the things you learned from Cook Smarts and that you’re a whiz in the kitchen these days. We’re so honored to be a part of your cooking journey and to help you gain more confidence in the kitchen. Kudos to you for not needing to follow recipes anymore! . . . Maybe one day you’ll assist Jess in coming up with a future meal plan?!

To join Ellen and cook meals like her favorite Sriracha-Honey Shrimp, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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