Kate: On the Path to Achieving Cooking Goals

  • By Jackie Sun
  • January 21, 2015

…Making dinner can be a really nice, relaxing moment. That has been one of my goals – get comfortable enough with cooking that I see it as relaxing “me time” rather than a chore.


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Kate: Hero in the Kitchen via @CookSmarts
Kitchen Hero Kate has traveled the world and discovered the culinary secrets of many cuisines, and she currently works for a nonprofit organization that provides nutrition workshops to people who don’t have kitchens. It sounds like she’s got it all down pat, but this Kitchen Hero understands the struggles of balancing work and family life (especially with the arrival of a new baby), and making healthy, home cooked meals. In short, cooking is not easy! But Kate continues to overcome her challenges and works to achieve her cooking goals, even if that also means accommodating a low-sodium diet. That’s what being a Kitchen Hero is all about – understanding your kitchen struggles and working to improve your cooking skills and overall health. Read her Hero in the Kitchen story below.

Name: Kate
Age: 36
City, State: San Francisco CA
I cook for: my hubby and our 2-year-old boy.
Outside of the kitchen I: chase said 2-year-old boy, and serve on the board of Leah’s Pantry, a nonprofit organization that provides interactive, activity-based nutrition workshops to families, kids, and seniors living in transitional housing shelters and affordable housing communities all over California.
The 3 pantry items I must have are:
1) Braggs Aminos (I try to eat low salt, and I love Asian food, so Braggs makes a good lower salt substitute for soy sauce. Thanks, Jess, for introducing me.)
2) Soba noodles (There is a brand with no salt and lots of brands with super scary, high amounts of salt. It is worth checking out the sodium before you buy.)
3) Olive oil
I cook because: I am feebly trying to eat less salt, and home cooking is key to that.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Oh, so many: Moroccan Chicken, Mustard Roasted Fish with Lentils, and just about all of the noodle-ly Asian meals.

How did you learn to cook?
I feel like I am still learning. My hubby and I traveled around the world for a year, and we took tons of cooking classes. We made ravioli from scratch in Bologna, panaeng curry in Thailand, Sekerpare in Turkey, and Amok in Cambodia. It was lots of fun, but not very helpful when it came time to actually cook for a family here at home. I mean, who is going to make traditional Bolognese sauce (the kind where you cannot leave the pot for a second) on a Tuesday night? I am working on learning how to do everyday cooking.

What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?
Trying to prepare a meal with a baby or toddler around is kinda crazy-making. It is so easy to get interrupted and lost. Or I think I am doing great time-wise and then I have to turn everything off and deal with some other issue (large dog eating kid’s toys, for example).

Also, I get overwhelmed with the everyday-ness of cooking. 5 p.m. rolls around and I feel like, “Hey, didn’t I just do this yesterday?”

On the other hand, if the kiddo is entertained, making dinner can be a really nice, relaxing moment. That has been one of my goals – get comfortable enough with cooking that I see it as relaxing “me time” rather than a chore.

I heard a public health nutrition expert explain once that most people make the same 10 meals over and over again. The trick, according to this guy, is to have those be the right 10 meals. That has been my goal for the last few years. To have 10 stable meals that I can make well and consistently and that my family likes.

Kate: Hero in the Kitchen via @CookSmarts
What have you learned since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?
So much. I started using Cook Smarts when I was pretty unhappy in the kitchen. I was trying to watch my salt intake and had a newborn. Before the baby and the low salt diet, I cooked some, and also ate sausages every week (hint: packaged sausages, kinda salty), and tacos from our local place (um, also pretty salty).

Right at the time in life that any sane person would start eating only take out (e.g., a new baby shows up), I was supposed to start cooking. Advice, folks: If you are planning on reproducing, learn to cook FIRST. Trying to learn how to cook with a very new baby is really tough. My friend told me to sign up for Cook Smarts, but I didn’t right away because I was in a bad mood about everything. When I finally did sign up, things got a lot better.

The first week, I made three good meals that were pretty reasonable on the salt front. I loved how there were tasks I could do during my baby’s nap time to get a jump start on cooking. Also, that is when Jess introduced me to Braggs Aminos. It has so much less salt than soy sauce, but still gives food a lot of flavor. That discovery opened up so many yummy Asian foods to me.

“I started using Cook Smarts when I was pretty unhappy in the kitchen. [Once I signed up,] things got a lot better.”

Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
This week my kiddo told me what I made was yummy on more than one occasion.

Other thoughts:
I have enough money to buy my groceries, several stores within walking distance that sell fresh produce, and a nice working kitchen to cook in. I have it so easy compared to so many people, and yet it is still really hard to get a healthy meal on the table every night. That is part of why Leah’s Pantry’s mission appeals to me so deeply. They help folks who live in food deserts, or who don’t have kitchens, or who live on food stamps, prepare healthy meals despite the obstacles. I really admire that.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Kate! We really admire you for all that you do, and hope that someday you’ll get that cooking “me time” you so deserve. Or maybe your little chef will do all the cooking and you can just kick back, relax, and enjoy a nice, home cooked meal!

Kate's favorite @CookSmarts meal: Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Carrots

Kate's favorite @CookSmarts meal: Mustard Roasted Fish with Lentils and Peas

To join Kate and cook meals like her favorite Moroccan-Spiced Chicken and Carrots and Mustard Roasted Fish with Lentils and Peas, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!


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