Jess Dang contacted me recently to share her site Cook Smarts, a company whose mission is to help home cooks lead healthier lives and have great experiences in the kitchen. Dang believes that simple home cooked meals can be a source of health, happiness and community, so she created Cook Smarts to offer educational tools like infographics, how-to videos, recipes, and even a meal planning service. I'm sorry if the rest of this post sounds like one big ad but know that I wasn't paid; I just absolutely love the site and will be sharing it with everyone who needs a little veggie help or is intimidated by their kitchen.
First of all Dang's story is unbelievably inspirational. She contracted Hepatitis C as an infant from a blood tranfusion, but of which she was unaware until making a blood donation. The disease progressed until college when her doctors advised her to undergo a year of intensive treatment with debilitating side effects, or risk developing other severe conditions. She vowed that if she made it to age 30, she would do something to help others lead healthier lives. She is now 32 and carrying out her mission through Cook Smarts.
When I checked out the site, I immediately loved the easy to read infographics and videos that showcase vegetables. I'm a veggie freak (drool over them, crave them, seek out restaurants that serve them, etc.) but not many people grow up with fond memories of vegetables; even if they do it's usually only one or two special vegetables dishes. I love how Cook Smarts highlights all vegetables and gives you the basics on how to store and prepare each vegetable in just the right way so you bring out its best flavor. Below are a few examples, but check out the site that has dozens more free cooking resources. The meal planning service costs $8 per month, providing recipes that can be tailored to special needs (gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian), nutrition information for each recipe, short how-to videos, and grocery lists.
This guide shows when to buy veggies, how to cook them, and in what types of dishes they work best:
This one reminds you which ones to use first before they spoil:
And one of my favorites, a chart for kids to track which veggies they've tasted and liked...or not! Ellyn Satter, an expert on childhood nutrition and picky eaters, says that it can take 15-20 exposures to a new food before a child will accept it. So don't give up after one sour face:
Finally, don't miss their helpful videos like this one on how to make a vinaigrette. I've been sharing a similar 60-second recipe with my clients that makes a tasty sodium-free salad dressing, marinade, or light sauce for plain rice or quinoa. I've tried so many salad dressings that are too fatty, too spicy or too salty—overall just too overpowering for greens. This easy healthful dressing is light but perfectly enhances a salad, cooked vegetables or grains.