Jara and Kenley: Creating Beautiful, Healthy Meals

Being able to cook allows me to find creativity. . .and understand the full story of my food, ingredients and calorie information. – Jara

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  • By Jess Dang
  • January 22, 2014

Jara and Kenley are an absolutely beautiful couple whose new focus on clean eating has helped them create an even more beautiful life in the kitchen. Armed with some modern tools and Kenley’s grandmother’s 60-year-old cast iron skillet, these two are cooking up healthy change. Read their Heroes in the Kitchen story below:

Name: Jara and Kenley
Age: 32 (Jara) older (Kenley)
City, State: Omaha, Nebraska
We cook for: each other and friends.
Outside of the kitchen:

  • Jara: When Kenley and I aren’t hanging out with our two chiweenies (chihuahua and dachshund mixes), Earle Dewey and Franklin Buckle, I’m at work as a Strategic Pursuits Coordinator at an engineering firm. I also enjoy working out, reading, writing and Instagramming (@jara_b).
  • Kenley: I am the Individual Giving Manager at a local art museum. I enjoy shooting Instagrams (@kdsturson), playing tennis and watching college football, especially the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Go Hogs!)

Being able to cook allows us to:

  • Jara: Relax in the kitchen. I enjoy the natural disconnect that cooking gives you. You can’t, or perhaps shouldn’t, Facebook, Instagram or Vine at the same time as you are preparing your meal(s). I find creativity in food preparation and understand the full story of my food, ingredients and calorie information.
  • Kenley: Cooking allows me to prepare nourishing food for my family and friends and keeps me connected with those that I love. I am the recipient of my grandmother’s cast iron skillets (which are over 60 years old). I prepare everything from Jara’s salmon to Georgia’s (Georgia is my late grandmother) spaghetti recipe. One day, I hope to prepare food for a little one in the same skillet my grandmother, father, Jara and I have all used.

Favorite Cook Smarts meal:


Jara: I learned how to cook from my parents and some television shows. I did not cook very much in undergraduate or graduate school. I learned about cafeterias, carry out and prepared food during those years. Once I finished graduate school, I basically had to re-learn what cooking meant to me as an adult.

Kenley: I learned to cook by watching my grandmother prepare our meals as I grew up. I honed my cooking skills surviving on potatoes and ramen in college.


Jara: I remember trying to improvise cooking and baking in high school. I didn’t understand what flavors, textures and temperatures did or didn’t go well together. There were a few meals that I made up that literally made me throw up. My biggest cooking challenge used to be lack of knowledge.

Kenley: My biggest cooking challenge has been preparing “good” food that tastes great and is good for me.

“I learned to cook by watching my grandmother prepare our meals as I grew up. My grandmother passed away last year and it [cooking her spaghetti recipe] is a way for me to still be connected with her.” – Kenley


Jara: Once I began to research building meals based on flavors, texture, and temperatures in addition to the micro and macronutrients, I built meals that were not only filling, healthy, but my meals were also beautiful and full of taste.

what new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?

Jara: I love learning how to make substitutes for our meals. I typically use spaghetti squash or kelp noodles instead of rice or pasta in our meals. I also love using our immersion blender. It blends items sooo very well!

Kenley: I have (kinda) mastered my grandmother’s spaghetti recipe. My grandmother passed away last year and it is a way for me to still be connected with her. Someday when I have children I will be able to prepare the recipe for them.

what advice would the two of you give to other home cooks on reaching their cooking goals?

Jara: Research well. Social media has opened a new door into cooking. This door can lead to experts like Cook Smarts or it can lead to faux-experts. Be careful what advice you follow.

I would also look for quality kitchen items. I remember having a vegetable peeler that I bought from a local grocery store; it was $1. The peeler couldn’t peel a butternut squash. One of my friends gifted me a high-quality peeler from Cuisinart – totally worth it.

Kenley: Get yourself some really good knives. They will make a world of difference when prepping your meals. Good knives expedite your chopping and are a lot safer than dull ones.

Jara and Kenley, thank you so much for sharing your personal stories that extend beyond the kitchen to family and love. We look forward to seeing many more of your moments on Instagram and maybe even seeing you in person in Omaha next year!

To join Jara and Kenley and cook meals like their favorite Baked Salmon with Curry Sauce and Soyrizo Breakfast Tacos, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!


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