Jessica: Putting Health First
“Cook Smarts has gotten me out of my recipe rut. I still mix in my personal recipes once in a while, but I have no excuse for not planning a weekly menu.” – Jessica
After being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in 2012, Jessica changed her entire eating routine and was able to get Grave’s disease into remission in less than a year. But leaving Bisquick and Hamburger Helper behind can feel like a burden if you now need to create a weekly dinner menu every week. With help from Cook Smarts’ meal plan service, Jessica was able to say goodbye to menu planning and find a convenient cooking groove filled with delicious leftovers every other day. By checking labels and making meals at home, she is now raising her 2-year-old son to be a pro sous chef while her husband raves about the effect of a healthy diet on his stable body weight.
Name: Jessica (Jessi) Juart
City, State: Manhattan, KS
I cook for: health. I cook to eat. I cook for me. I cook for my family.
Outside of the kitchen I: design apps. I’m also a military wife and boy mom.
My specialty dish that everyone always asks me to make is: Oh, lots here. Probably cinnamon rolls the most, but also Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Carrot Cake, Pumpkin Rolls, Maple Dijon Panko Crusted Salmon, and Pesto Risotto.
I cook because: I enjoy eating good food and want to be healthy.
Favorite CS meal so far: Wow, hard decision . . . probably Creamy Cajun Pasta with Chicken.
How did you learn to cook?
In early 2012, I was diagnosed with thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism / Grave’s). I did a lot of research and clean eating during the next year. I became an avid ingredient reader and more health conscious. I started cooking and baking everything I could from scratch so that I could avoid the added sugars, salts, and other additives in pre-packaged, processed foods (good-bye Bisquick, Duncan Hines, Campbell’s Condensed Soup, and Hamburger Helper). I swapped recipes with coworkers and discovered new recipes on the internet. I got better — my thyroid disease has been in remission since the end of 2012. As an added bonus, I lost a few pounds in the process as well.
What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
My biggest challenge starting out was two-fold: menu-planning with variation (I only had a few dozen recipes in my arsenal to cycle through, and brainstorming a weekly meal plan seemed overwhelming to me) and motivation to cook for just me (my husband is active-duty military and is away for training, deployments, and night shift frequently).
Now my biggest challenge is my super-clingy son who is not always a fan of Mommy taking time to cook instead of playing with or reading to him (he’s now 2 and getting better about this, but also wants to help . . . which can be messy).
“I try to do my prep steps the night before after my son goes to bed so that my actual meal cooking time goes pretty quick the next afternoon. I only cook every other night so that I don’t get burnt out.”
What strategies have you used to raise healthy eaters?
I think my husband has discovered that healthy foods can be tasty. He’s also observed other people his age gaining weight, and credits his ability to maintain a lower body weight to his diet (my cooking). My son is only 2, but from 6 months old, I’ve been letting him eat the same healthy foods that we are eating. We didn’t do any prepared baby foods or snacks. He still rarely is allowed a store-bought snack or dessert item and has only eaten fast food twice in his life. He also loves to help around the kitchen. I engineered and built him a little pod (I even emailed a little with Jess Dang during my planning stages) so that he can reach the counter. Here’s my son making waffles in his kitchen pod:
What’s been the biggest change in your family’s cooking / eating routine since starting Cook Smarts?
Cook Smarts has gotten me out of my recipe rut. I still mix in my personal recipes once in a while, but I have no excuse for not planning a weekly menu. I try to do my prep steps the night before after my son goes to bed so that my actual meal cooking time goes pretty quick the next afternoon. I only cook every other night so that I don’t get burnt out. I just make double the servings we’ll need, and we have leftovers the next night.
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
My knife skills are probably the biggest thing I’ve learned / honed. The Cook Smarts method videos are so helpful. I can cut an onion faster (and better) with a knife now than I used to be able to with my “slap-chop”. I’ve also learned how to grill a pizza, make carbonara, prepare and use leeks, and so much more. I’m becoming more confident in altering recipes and even creating my own.
Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
My proudest kitchen moment is probably cooking my way through a 9-month deployment with a 1-year-old. We had so many amazing (and healthy) “mommy & me” meals. I felt so accomplished and proud of what I was able to create to nourish my son and myself (and yay for not ordering take-out or drive-thrus or doing pre-prepared / pre-packaged meals).
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
Don’t let it overwhelm you, it’s actually not as hard as you might think. Do your prep ahead of time if you’re crunched for time in the evenings / afternoons. Don’t feel like you need to cook every night (leftovers can still be tasty), and most of all have fun!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jessica! We are inspired by your commitment to health for you and your family and are excited that it has made a difference in all of your lives. We’re truly glad that our weekly Cook Smarts recipes have made it easier to keep your hyperthyroidism in remission as you cook meals with your little helper in the kitchen.