Shirley: Finding Confidence as a Home Cook and a Mom

“I never really learned basic skills, so I would often get turned off by recipes that were too complicated or listed too many ingredients.”

Cook Smarts' Heroes in the Kitchen Series: Shirley's Cooking Story #WhatsYourCookingStory
First of all, I want to call attention to the photo of Shirley’s family – adorable, right? Oh her little girl looks just like her! In addition to having an adorable family, Shirley’s also learning to care for them at the dinner table too. With her new cooking chops, Shirley’s discovered new confidence and ease when it comes to feeding her family every night. Read her Heroes in the Kitchen story below:

Name: Shirley
Age: 36
City, State: Alexandria, VA
Outside of the kitchen I: take care of my family and work full time as a Talent Acquisition Recruiter for a Big 4 firm. I’m also a part time dog walker to my wheaten terrier. When I’m not doing all of the above, I try to squeeze in power yoga, running, and reading.
I cook for: my 3 year old daughter and my husband (and soon my 6-month old son who will be starting table foods any day).
Being able to cook allows me to: provide a nutritious, home-cooked meal for my family instead of running around last minute to the grocery store or ordering unhealthy take out.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal: I have so many favorites but we really enjoyed the baked salmon with curry sauce and coconut cream butternut squash – delicious!

How did you learn to cook?

Jess Dang and Cook Smarts taught me! Seriously though, I grew up as the only girl with 6 older brothers, and my mom wanted us out of the kitchen so that she could focus on cooking all those meals to feed us (to this day, I don’t know how she did it!). As a result, I never really learned how to cook.

Throughout college, I made basics like spaghetti and lasagna, but then I met my husband who loves to cook and is great at it, so I let him do most of the cooking. After my daughter was born and my husband started traveling frequently for work, I realized that I needed to step up my game and learn how to cook a wider variety of meals beyond the basics and kid-friendly staples. I looked up recipes online and bought cookbooks but it was tough to plan an entire week ahead, so it was a half-hearted endeavor. Then I found Cook Smarts and now I can honestly say I’ve become a much better cook on a regular basis.

What’s been your biggest kitchen challenge?

I never really learned basic skills, so I would often get turned off by recipes that were too complicated or listed too many ingredients. I also did not have the interest or time to come up with new and creative recipes weekly.

“I feel a lot more confident in the kitchen and in turn, I feel more confident as a mom because I can offer my family healthy and delicious meals made from fresh ingredients and not to have spend too much time doing it.”

How has your cooking routine changed recently?

Cook Smarts has completely changed my approach to cooking. I no longer have to create a week’s worth of recipes or worry about whether or not I have the skills to make the dish. The video links that are provided in each recipe are invaluable for novice cooks like me, who need to know quickly how to prepare a butternut squash or even how to dice an onion properly. I feel a lot more confident in the kitchen and in turn, I feel more confident as a mom because I can offer my family healthy and delicious meals made from fresh ingredients and not to have spend too much time doing it. I’m also having a lot more fun in the kitchen now.

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

I love being able to make from scratch many of the meals that I previously only ordered at restaurants, such as the shrimp vermicelli bowl, panko-crusted fish tacos or chicken thai basil stir fry.

What advice would you give to other home cooks on reaching their cooking goals?

Regardless of whether you start slowly with a meal or two or dive headfirst into it, just start! Cook Smarts provides everything you need and will save you invaluable time and money. If I can learn to cook delicious meals, anyone can!


Shirley, thanks for giving us the credit for teaching you how to cook, but you did the tough part. Executing isn’t easy, and I know the follow-through to pick up a new skill takes dedication and patience (especially with two kids underfoot and a full time job!). I’m so happy to hear that being able to cook has made you a more confident mom too. It’s amazing how a good home cooked meal can bring ease to other parts of your life too. Keep up the good work in the kitchen, and I’m excited for your son to try a Cook Smarts meal soon!

Shirley's Favorite Cook Smarts Meal: Baked Salmon with Curry Sauce via @cooksmarts
To join Shirley and cook meals like her family’s favorite baked salmon with curry sauce, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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