Monica: Meal Planning Her Way Out of a Dinner Rut

I cook because I believe it is healthier to eat home cooked food, and to have control of what you are putting into your body. – Monica

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Burritos and spaghetti are both very wonderful things, but can you imagine if you ate them every single day? It might start off enjoyable, but over time, they’ll just get boring and totally overdone. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you are just starting out with cooking or have a good deal of experience in the kitchen, like our Kitchen Hero this week, Monica. She grew up cooking for her family once a week and by doing that, learned how to cook. But even seasoned cooks need fresh meal ideas! When Monica joined our meal plan service, she was able to get out of her dinner rut, and enjoy the balanced homemade meals she needs to live a healthier life. Read more about her Hero in the Kitchen story below.

Name: Monica N.
Age: As old as the Seattle Sounders! 😉
City, State: Seattle, WA
I cook for: my boyfriend and myself.
Outside of the kitchen I: work in the rags business (menswear), attend the Seattle International Film Festival, write short stories, wax political and poetical, and watch cartoons.
The one kitchen tool / equipment I cannot live without is: my paring knife. I use it for many tasks, including ones better suited for other tools.
I cook because: For most of my adult life, money has been very tight, and cooking at home is much more economical than eating out all the time. I believe it is healthier to eat home cooked food, and to have control of what you are putting into your body. I don’t believe in dietary supplements, and think I can get everything I need from the food I eat, if I put my mind to it. I’m also a fairly picky eater, so if I make it myself, I am assured that it is exactly how I want it.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: It is hard to say, but probably the one I was most excited about was Mafe [West African Chicken in Peanut Sauce]. I occasionally used to eat mafe at a Senegalese restaurant here in town which has since gone away. I bought a Senagalese cookbook for the sole purpose of recreating this dish, but it wasn’t until it showed up in my Cook Smarts menu that I finally made it! It is soooo yummy! It even inspired me to try another recipe in the cookbook – black eyed pea fritters with kaani sauce. I messed up royally on the fritters, but the sauce was good.


In middle school and high school, I was required to cook for the family one night each week. I think I got some guidance on some basic family favorites, but mostly I was just pointed toward the recipe box and had to figure it out on my own.


Coming up with ideas. This is where Cook Smarts is perfect for me. Otherwise it would be burrito for lunch, spaghetti for dinner, every single day.

We try our best to keep an open mind, and when things don’t work out, we try to learn from the experience.

How has your cooking routine changed since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?

My boyfriend and I have a schedule more or less – I cook on Mondays, he cooks on Tuesdays, we sometimes join forces on Wednesdays. Leftovers the rest of the week. We are still trying to learn when is the best time to go to the grocery store!


Any time I prepare a vegetable for the very first time (Brussels sprouts, I’m calling your name) and it is successful, I am pretty proud.


In the kitchen and out – don’t be afraid to fail! We try our best to keep an open mind, and when things don’t work out, we try to learn from the experience. Whether it’s a tweak to the method, measurements, or to just never try it again, we learn! It beats discouragement.

Monica, we totally understand the daily burrito thing – we’ve been there! We’re very happy to be a part of your cooking journey, prevent you from getting bored of burritos, and best of all, introduce new vegetables for you to try. Thanks for your super helpful cooking tips and for inspiring our community to keep an open mind while cooking and learn from trial and error. Learning and growing is one of the best adventures of cooking!

To join Monica and cook meals like her favorite Mafe [West African Chicken in Peanut Sauce], check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!


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