Cooking is like meditation for me. When I get home from a long day, I unwind to the sights and smells I create in my kitchen. Plus, it’s a way to put my soul on the plates of the ones I love. – Melissa
Kitchen Hero Melissa’s got a lot on her plate. She’s a mom of 3, a math coach, and working on obtaining a PhD – all while making time to cook healthy, homemade meals for her family. But instead of looking at cooking as a chore, Melissa chooses to spend her time in the kitchen unwinding, and letting the entire process of cooking free her mind. Read more in her Hero in the Kitchen story below.
Name: Melissa Jacobs
Age: Almost 40!
City, State: Deerfield, Michigan
I cook for: my beloved Mike and our three kiddos, Julia (14), Roger (12), and Brian (almost 10!).
Outside of the kitchen I: am obscenely busy. Aside from raising my three children, I am a Math Coach for Toledo Public Schools (TPS). TPS is a large urban district in Toledo, Ohio. I am also working on my PhD in Educational Technology and Mathematics at the University of Toledo. I hope to be ABD (All But Dissertation) by May 2017.
My favorite cuisine is: Mexican or Asian-fare. Both allow me to cook with a lot of flavor while keeping my meals fresh and healthy. They both offer a lot of variety, also.
I cook because: it sets my mind free. Cooking is like meditation for me. When I get home from a long day, I unwind to the sights and smells I create in my kitchen. Plus, it’s a way to put my soul on the plates of the ones I love. Definitely a priority!
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: The Asian-Spiced Fish Tacos and any of the oven-baked risottos — come one! Risotto in the oven! My kids absolutely love the Spinach & Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Tortellini Soup with Creamy Tomato Broth, and Turkey Burgers with Adobo Honey Sauce. Leave it to a teacher to NOT follow the directions and choose more than one favorite — a testament to Cook Smarts!
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?
I learned to cook in stages over the course of my life. Growing up, my mom would let my brother and I plan the menu, make the grocery list, and stock the cart at the store. At home, mom would share her recipes with us and we would make dinner, start-to-finish.
In college, I worked at a local restaurant that made everything from scratch, ketchup included. I learned a lot in that kitchen! After college (as my family began to grow) my passion for fresh, healthy, home-cooked meals intensified. As my children are growing, their interests in cooking and nutrition are intensifying and I am mentoring them in the arts of the kitchen.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE?
My biggest cooking challenge is currently my kitchen. When Mike’s grandmother died, we moved into her old farmhouse. Mike has always dreamed of living there. It is a nice old house that needs a lot of love (which we plan on doing after I finish grad school). There is an old gas stove with a broiler in the bottom drawer. The broiler frustrates me. There is also zero counter space. I have to set the toaster on the stovetop to make toast. Despite my lack of amenities, I consider myself an at-home chef and find functionality in the space I have. It could be worse — I could have no kitchen!
I trusted [Cook Smarts’] instructions, followed them explicitly, and created a beautiful, fresh, and delicious meal. I was sold from that moment. Sold, and proud!
HOW HAS YOUR COOKING ROUTINE CHANGED SINCE STARTING COOK SMARTS’ MEAL PLANS?
Before Cook Smarts, I would spend a lot of time poring over my cookbook collection and favorite cooking magazines. I would also hand out magazines and cookbooks to Mike and the kids. They were instructed to choose whatever they wanted and I would add it to the menu. Then, I would spend a lot of time taking notes on the ingredients I needed and the amounts. Finally, I would assemble a detailed shopping list, which was organized by store sections. The idea was efficiency. Unfortunately, I began to lose time for my routine. I began teaching professional development classes after school, plus I was a university student.
Finding Cook Smarts was a dream (thanks to fellow foodie Melissa Mietzel!). I still have access to a variety of cuisines. My family can tell me what sounds good and I can accommodate their tastes (we LOVE the archives). The best part? Cook Smarts makes a grocery list like the ones I’ve always made — but instantaneously.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROUDEST KITCHEN MOMENT.
It is tough to define my proudest kitchen moment, so I’ll share my most unforgettable Cook Smarts kitchen moment: the first Cook Smarts meal ever made. Asian Summer Rolls with Pickled Cabbage. I had never worked with rice papers before. I trusted your instructions, followed them explicitly, and created a beautiful, fresh, and delicious meal. I was sold from that moment. Sold, and proud!
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR HEALTH AND SUCCESS IN THE KITCHEN?
Success in the kitchen comes from persistence. Have you ever heard of Malcolm Gladwell? He said you need 10,000 hours of practice at anything to become a phenom. The good news? You don’t need to be a phenom in the kitchen. Accept yourself where you are and continue to grow from there.
To keep it healthy, eat REAL food. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word on a label, put it down. If there are more than five ingredients, drop it. If you can’t identify what part of an animal you’re eating, don’t ever eat that meat again. Support local farmers and other food businesses by shopping with them, first. Also, highlight the fruits and veggies that are in season. All of these things will satisfy the palate while hugging your heart, as well.
Melissa, we love your positive outlook on cooking – even when your kitchen might not be up to par with how you want to cook. We’re glad that doesn’t stop you from creating delicious, healthy meals for yourself and your family! We wish you the best as you work on your PhD and continue cranking out homemade meals. Thanks for letting us help you out in the kitchen a bit during these busy times. We’ll be cheering you on!