“Don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes meals are not going to turn out the way you expected, and that’s OK!”
Julie’s a baker, a cook, and a student for the second time around. She counts on meal planning to make sure she stays on budget and has enough breakfasts and lunches packed for her and her husband to bring to school and work. Now, that’s dedication! Read her Heroes in the Kitchen story below:
Age: 29 (soon to be 30, although I’m in denial about it!)
City, State: Seattle, Washington
I cook for: myself and my husband.
Outside of the kitchen: am a student, back in college for the second time! I have a BA in political science and history but wanted to change my career and have gone back to school to take pre-reqs for a biology degree, possibly headed into a PhD program. I also have a passion for nutrition and spend a lot of time looking at improving my diet and making sure I’m up on the latest nutrition information.
Being able to cook allows me to: control the ingredients that I consume, which is hugely important to me. It also helps lower our food costs, since I make the vast majority of our meals (we pack breakfasts and lunches to eat at work/school), with our homemade dinners providing the leftovers for our lunches every day.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: Chipotle Guacamole Burgers, although I’d have to give honorable mentions to Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Red Onions and Jam, Panko Crusted Fish Tacos, and Pineapple & Cashew Curried Fried Rice!
How did you learn to cook?
I am a mostly self-taught cook. Growing up my mom always made wonderful, healthy meals each night but she never taught her children to make them (honestly we didn’t have much interest in cooking and probably wouldn’t have made the best students in her kitchen). So fast-forward to getting married and finishing up college, and I found I really didn’t know how to make very many meals. I started looking at recipes online and created a recipe binder full of print-outs, and then just started experimenting! It was a slow process, but here I am almost 9 years later and I feel pretty confident in the kitchen and enjoy cooking (and especially baking).
How has your cooking routine changed recently?
In the past two years I’ve decided to go back to school, so my free time has been reduced and sometimes I’m not always home at a good time to get a meal on the table. I have become a huge fan of my crockpot to get delicious, easy meals on the table on the nights when I get home late.
“I don’t think I could survive without my good knife set; it makes prepping so much faster!”
Cook Smarts has been great as well, especially since I don’t have to spend as much time planning my meals anymore! The shopping list is probably my favorite feature, since it greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to compile a shopping list (which is one of my least favorite chores) and get through the grocery store.
What new skill or dish have you cooked that you’re most proud of?
I have always been a big fan of baking, and my friends frequently tell me how much they enjoy my (sometimes elaborate) desserts. Even though I’m totally comfortable with baking, I’ve always been a little intimidated by making pies. It seems silly, but making a pie crust would make me incredibly nervous! I managed to overcome my fear and while I still don’t make pies regularly, I’m no longer scared to make them!
What advice would you give to other home cooks on reaching their cooking goals?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Sometimes meals are not going to turn out the way you expected, and that’s OK! I’ve learned the most from recipes that have flopped, and at the very least sometimes they’ll give you a funny story to tell!
Also, I highly recommend getting some good equipment for your kitchen. I don’t think I could survive without my good knife set; it makes prepping so much faster! I also adore my KitchenAid mixer (I use it several times a week to make everything from bread and pizza dough to homemade whip cream), and I also don’t think I could live without my food processor. These are all things that I thought weren’t necessary to own when I first started cooking, but they’ve truly made my life so much easier.
Thanks Julie! We hope you continue to add to your recipe binder and hopefully some Cook Smarts meals will make the cut. Maybe one day we’ll get to enjoy one of your baked goods. Homemade pie, perhaps?
To join Julie and cook meals like her favorite Chipotle Guacamole Burger, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!