I cook because it brings me joy, lets me be creative, and nourishes my body! – Mary
Our featured Kitchen Hero this week, Mary, has been wowing us with her beautiful food photos ever since she joined our cooking community. Not only is she great at photographing food, she’s also a pro in the kitchen (just check out that loaf of homemade bread in the photo above!) and she’s a nine-time marathoner! Whether Kitchen Hero Mary is baking up a batch of granola or simmering her own 5-star pasta sauce, home cooking is what fuels her and her healthy lifestyle. Read more about her Hero in the Kitchen story below.
Names: Mary Lambkin
City, State: Nashville, TN
I cook for: myself and my husband.
Outside of the kitchen I: like to run, write my blog, watch Netflix, take naps, explore Nashville, and spend time with family. I also work in downtown Nashville as a writer at an advertising agency.
If I had to eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be: bread & butter!
I cook because: it brings me joy, lets me be creative, and nourishes my body!
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Impossible question! One of our favorites is the Miso Pork Noodle Soup.
HOW DID YOU LEARN TO COOK?
I grew up watching my mom cook, and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was learning! Many of the kitchen tricks I use today I picked up from her. I started experimenting with baking and desserts in high school and college. When I graduated from college in 2009 and started living on my own (and paying for my own groceries!), I started experimenting with cooking actual meals. I remember tossing fully frozen chicken breasts in a pan and cooking them until they were like rubber hockey pucks — ha! Since then I’ve tried a lot of recipes and read a lot of food blogs to learn how to actually cook. And Cook Smarts helps, too! Since I’m a fairly serious runner (nine-time marathoner!) and also have a fitness / food blog, cooking is sort of a necessity to fuel the rest of my life.
WHAT’S BEEN your BIGGEST COOKING CHALLENGE?
Although I like to take on lots of unnecessary self-challenges in the kitchen — like making things like bread, granola, and yogurt from scratch — I think the biggest real challenge I face is simply putting a healthy, tasty dinner on the table every night during the week. My husband and I both work full-time and really only have time to go to the grocery store on the weekends. To get through five solid days of packed breakfasts, lunches, and dinners is a challenge and Cook Smarts definitely helps!
HOW HAS YOUR COOKING ROUTINE CHANGED SINCE STARTING COOK SMARTS’ MEAL PLANS?
I would imagine that most people say they never meal planned or barely meal planned before Cook Smarts, but I’m the opposite! Before Cook Smarts, I was an extreme meal planner who only chose the most challenging recipes from various cook books and food blogs. I’d end up blowing a ton of money at the grocery store, spending hours on the weekend and weeknights slaving over dinner, and wasting leftover ingredients like herbs at the end of the week.
In addition, I would get frustrated by the lack of consistency among recipes — some that promised six servings would deliver two, others that promised two servings would wind up being closer to six. Once we switched to Cook Smarts, my meal planning process became much more practical, affordable, and predictable. Yet still delicious! I love that many of the recipes “build upon” each other so that you reduce waste and save time by repurposing extras and leftovers. And because they’re all written and approved by the Cook Smarts team, I know exactly what to expect in terms of difficulty and serving size.
“Once we switched to Cook Smarts, my meal planning process became much more practical, affordable, and predictable. Yet still delicious!”
tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.
This is kind of silly, but I’ve always had a fear of making spaghetti sauce because both my husband and I have Italian parents and grandparents who make five-star spaghetti sauces. Over the past couple of years I’ve been working on my own sauce (with some tips from Mom and Grandma!) and am finally proud to make my sauce (the secret is to simmer it with a pork rib!). I even served my sauce to my Italian mother-in-law the other week, and she approved!
What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?
For success and for health, I’m a big believer in weekend prep. It saves me a ton of time during the week and makes me feel calm and accomplished on Monday mornings. Plus, I find that I’m far more inclined to eat a healthy fruit or vegetable if it’s already been washed, peeled, and sliced up.
Mary, thanks so much for letting us share your cooking story. Judging by your current food photos, it’s hard to believe that you started with rubbery chicken hockey pucks – way to go on all your experimentation and practice in the kitchen! Hopefully someday we’ll be able to try that pasta sauce of yours . . . along with a good chunk of your homemade bread on the side!