• Cook Smarts Review & Giveaway

    October 13, 2013

    Hi, friends!

    As you might remember, I had the opportunity to use Cook Smarts last week to plan our dinners, and I really enjoyed the experience. This post is sponsored by Cook Smarts, but I would be more than happy to tell you guys about this meal planning service even if it wasn’t. I truly love meal planning, and if you’re a fan too, I think you will really enjoy this service. It gives you great ideas for meals, but it is also really customizable at the same time.

    So, in general, I really like meal planning, but sometimes it’s tough to come up with new recipe ideas week after week. I often ask Mal for his input, but he usually gives me the old “you know what I like” response, which is cute, but not at all helpful. So when I was offered the chance to try Cook Smarts for free, I was all about it because, each week, the service emails you four healthy recipes along with a grocery list. Meal planning took no time at all last week, and I felt so efficient whipping up a dinner menu (with fun, interesting meals!) and grocery list in a matter of minutes. It was awesome.

    cook_smarts_menu_

    If you missed my meal planning post from last week, it looked like this:

    • Sunday: Out to dinner
    • Monday: Pepper Steak Stir Fry (Cook Smarts)
    • Tuesday: Pineapple and Cashew Curried Fried Rice with ground chicken (Cook Smarts)
    • Wednesday: Chorizo Breakfast Tacos with Roasted Potatoes (Cook Smarts)
    • Thursday: Potato and Chorizo Dobladas
    • Friday: Wedding
    • Saturday: Wedding

    Three out of the four meals I planned were from the Cook Smarts menu for last week, so, as you can see, I didn’t use all four of the recipes emailed to me in my meal plan. Mal isn’t a huge fan of salmon or curry, so I nixed the Baked Salmon with Curry Sauce and replaced it with a meal of my own. This is totally cool because Cook Smarts lets you customize your meal plan and shopping list. You can select to “do not make” a particular meal and a grocery list will be populated without those ingredients. Genius.

    I printed out the grocery shopping list below, went through and crossed off items we already had at home, and then went to the store to buy the rest. It was so easy. I really loved this feature!

    customized_shopping_list_

    Additionally, if you don’t like one of the recipes on the current week’s meal plan, you can easily swap it out with another Cook Smarts recipe. With a subscription, you can access all of the meal plan archives and even search the recipes by name or ingredient based on your own taste preferences. And if a new week’s meal plan comes out and you aren’t totally loving the recipes listed, you can even find a whole new week of meals in the archives and use that instead.

    meal_plan_archives

    I also really liked that each recipe is customizable based on a variety of diets. You can choose between the original, vegetarian, Paleo, and gluten-free recipes for every meal. In our house, this was really helpful. Mal and I tend to eat a Paleo-esque diet with dairy, potatoes, and beans mixed in, so I liked being able to click back and forth between the different recipe options to see how I could best personalize our meals.

    One of the most helpful features of the meal plan was the “smarts from the team” sidebar, which includes tips and tricks for making your weekly meals more efficient. Last week, for example, there was a brief explanation of soyrizo (in case you’ve never heard of it) with possible substitutions for it. There was also a note about making extra rice and curry sauce if you’re following the meal plan to simplify and speed up the dinner-making process. I love having ingredients already prepped and ready to go, so I thought this was pretty awesome.

    cook_smarts_menu_week_of_oct_7

    Speaking of prep, I loved that each recipe gave you instructions for preparing ingredients ahead of time. If you’re a Sunday cook-up person, this is super duper helpful!

    cook_smarts_prep

    All of the Cook Smarts recipes we used last week were easy to follow and took around 30 minutes to cook. All of the Cook Smarts recipes aim to be under 30 minutes of active cook time.

    easy_navigation_

    On the prep instructions above, you might have noticed some orange text, which are hyperlinks to how-to videos. For this particular recipe, you can learn how to chop an onion or slice/cube an avocado via video. Cook Smarts has all sorts of cooking videos to help teach you how to cook and do it more efficiently.

    how_to_chop_avocados

    Ok, time to share Mal’s and my favorite recipe from last week. The Soyrizo Breakfast Tacos were so easy to make and soooo delicious, I asked Jess, the owner of Cook Smarts, if I could share it on CNC and she agreed. It’s definitely one of those delicious, go-to weeknight recipes. Mal and I made these after CrossFit one night, so we were hungry and just wanted to eat, so I was really happy with how easy it was to make this meal.

    Mal offered to help me cook, so I could snap some photos for the blog, which was much appreciated. With two people working together, this meal came together in no time. If we had prepped the onion and avocado beforehand, it really would have come together fast.

    mal cooking

    We ended up using chorizo instead of soyrizo (taste preference), and we didn’t make the roasted potatoes, but only because we thought the tacos would be enough food for us and they were.

    cook_smarts_cooking_

    The Chorizo Breakfast Tacos turned out so well. Mal and I both devoured them. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

    Chorizo_Breakfast_Tacos_from_Cook_Smarts

    Soyrizo Breakfast Tacos (gluten-free)

    Ingredients
    amounts are for 4 servings

    • Green onions – 2 stalks, chopped
    • Onions – 1/2, diced
    • Eggs – 6 to 8, whisked
    • Avocado – 1, sliced or cubed
    • Soyrizo – 1 lb. (I used ground chorizo)
    • Gluten-free tortillas – 8
    • Sour cream or creme fraiche – for serving over breakfast tacos
    • Hot sauce – for serving

    Roasted Potatoes with Paprika

    • Baby or new potatoes – 1 1/2 lbs., quartered
    • Olive oil – 2 tbs.
    • Paprika – 1 tsp.
    • Ketchup or hot sauce – for serving
    1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. {Check out our how to roast vegetables video.}
    2. Place potatoes in a sheet pan and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for 10 minutes on top rack.
    3. While potatoes are cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add in 1 tbs. cooking oil and then diced onions to heated oil with a dash of salt. Saute for ~3 minutes, until softened. Add in soyrizo (remove from casing). Saute for another 3 minutes. Remove from skillet.
    4. Return skillet back to heat and add remaining tablespoon of oil. Add in eggs and then lightly scramble until you get them to the consistency you want. Remove from heat.
    5. After potatoes have steamed for 10 minutes, take them out and toss with olive oil, paprika, and a generous sprinkle of salt. Roast for another 10 to 15 minutes uncovered, giving them a shake midway through.
    6. Warm tortillas according to package instructions. Spoon eggs and soyrizo into warmed tortillas. Top with avocado, sour cream, and hot sauce. Enjoy potatoes dipped in ketchup or drizzled with hot sauce.

    TV_Taco_Dinner_Cook_Smarts

    Having access to all of these easy, healthy meals made meal planning and cooking so simple (perhaps even somewhat effortless) last week. Of course, I could have searched the internet or flipped through cookbooks or magazines for recipe ideas, but I really liked having four delicious recipes and a customized grocery shopping list sent right to my inbox. I am also really impressed with everything that comes along with the Cook Smarts subscription, including everything from the healthy recipes and cooking tutorials to personalized shopping lists and the user-friendly website. If you are interested in trying Cook Smarts for yourself, you can sample meal plans for free here. If you like what you see, you can sign up for a subscription for as little as $6 a month, which is a great deal if you ask me!

    Ok, giveaway time! I loved using Cook Smarts so much, I asked Jess if I could away a subscription to a lucky CNC reader, and she loved the idea. So here’s your chance to win a 3-month subscription to Cook Smarts!

    cook_smarts

    To enter: Just leave a comment on this post about your biggest meal planning challenge. I’ll randomly pick a winner on Wednesday morning. Good luck!

    The post is brought to you by Cook Smarts.

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    { 387 comments… read them below or add one }

    Emma October 15, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Having a 1.5 year old (who is not a picky eater) and a husband who IS a picky eater makes meal planning so tough for me. I feel like I’m a short order cook half the time since I’m constantly making two different kinds of meals almost every night.

    I also work full time, so my evenings are full of feeing my daughter, putting her to sleep, prepping our lunches for the next day, and then cooking for my husband and I, which means we eat around 9pm every night!

    Reply

    Emily October 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

    My biggest challenge is getting enough meat into my diet. I’m not creative with meat since I love veggies!

    Reply

    Jennifer October 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

    My biggest challenge is getting in a variety of different meals! We seem to always go to the same ol’ same ol’ and it’s getting old!

    Reply

    Ginny October 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

    We get home after 6 most evenings and are hungry then! I need some new ideas for quick, tasty, nutritious meals that do not require a lot of time to fix.

    Reply

    Kate October 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

    I have a hard time predicting what I am going to feel like eating for the whole week!

    Reply

    Nicole October 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Figuring out ingredients that will last through the week, instead of buying a bunch of different ones and trying to use up all the produce!

    Reply

    Shaunna October 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

    My biggest challenge is making something healthy that my family will eat….and still keeping a good variety.

    Reply

    Annie Atherton October 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

    My biggest meal planning issue is figuring out something EVERYONE will eat! Sometimes I just eat something different :/

    Reply

    Dawn October 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    For me it’s time; I’d love having a shopping list to take that element away. Awesome option to be able to customize!

    Reply

    Jessica October 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    My biggest meal planning challenge is balancing one-shot wonders (meals that don’t have leftovers) with make one, eat all week meals so that we can have leftovers for lunch all week!

    Reply

    Miranda October 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    this sounds like a new way to organize new to you recipes to try and good rotation stand bys….would love to try it

    Reply

    Kelly Brown October 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    My biggest challenge is getting sick of cooking the same things! This would be awesome to try!!

    Reply

    kristina October 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    My biggest challenge is feeling tired after work. I LOVE cooking, but after a 9-hour day, its often the last thing I feel like doing.

    Reply

    Erin G. @ Treats and Sneaks October 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    My biggest meal planning challenge is trying to avoid making the same thing each week. My boyfriend and I have our favorites and sometimes have difficulty trying new things.

    Reply

    Melissa October 15, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I get home from work around 7 and I want to eat dinner ASAP. I would love to have my meals planned out for me! I’m a vegetarian, so it’s exciting to see they offer a veg option!

    Reply

    Jess October 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    my biggest challenge is deciding what I want to eat if it’s time to change things up!

    Reply

    Allison October 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I would love to have meals already planned for me. I don’t mind the cooking, it’s the planning.

    Reply

    Tiffany October 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    This is awesome! I am in a rut trying to come up with new recipes so I would love to try cook smarts!

    Reply

    Erin October 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    My husband is in his medical residency and working about 80 hours a week, so he has no time to help me with meal planning. I work and I’m in school 2 nights a week, so for the remaining nights we might have to spend together, it would be amazing to have our meals planned for us! It would make my Sundays much easier!

    Reply

    Angie October 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    My biggest challenge is eating a Gluten free diet. I have been diagnosed with Celiac disease and it is difficult to find recipes that I like that are quick and easy to prepare. My doctor wants me to eat natural foods vs. processed foods (and eliminate most, if not all, the preservatives!!). Often I am preparing the same thing over and over again.
    One of the reasons I love your blog is that I get to see other possible recipes to try. The Cook Smarts system seems like a dream come true!!

    Reply

    Ashley K October 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Hey!
    My biggest meal planning challenge is trying to think out an entire week and cook for myself as I live on my own. Having an idea of what to cook all week while managing law school and not wasting food would be amazing!

    Reply

    marissa October 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    We go through periods where food is boring for us–we don’t feel like making the tried and true recipes, and we need something new but don’t have the energy to experiment when nothing sounds good. This would be an awesome tool for us I think.

    Reply

    Grace October 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    I find it tough trying to keep variety in my eating whilst cooking for one person on a limited budget – it’s so tempting to just stick to large batches of the same thing, especially since I only get home from work in the evenings around 8pm. Cook Smarts sounds like a great tool!

    Reply

    Lisa October 15, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    The biggest meal planning challenge for us is realistically planning meals for the week that we will actually eat. For example, if I plan five meals, it’s not always the case that I’ll make all of them- despite buying all the ingredients. It’s hard to be realistic about what the week holds in store for us time wise. Plus, sometimes I try to find quick healthy meals that turn into a much longer process than I planned.

    This would be an amazing tool for us! Thanks for introducing us to the option.

    Reply

    Deb October 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I am a vegetarian and my family all eats meat. It would be nice to have meat recipes to choose from and adapt them for me.

    Reply

    Kari October 16, 2013 at 8:24 am

    I love cooking healthy foods and will experiment away with veggies! I need good options to use for when I’m entertaining people, and give them new, healthy, creative ways to cook.

    Reply

    Kel October 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

    figuring out a variety of meals for the week

    Reply

    Kimberly October 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    My biggest challenge is finding things that my gluten-free husband and picky kiddos will all eat!

    Reply

    Kelsey October 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    My biggest meal planning challenges is cooking for 1 and my cravings!

    Reply

    sarah @makingitmyhome.blogspot.com October 16, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    my biggest challenge is finding the time to plan, organize my pantry, figure out what to cook based on what’s on sale and what we have that needs to get used up, finding the time to get to the store,….

    Reply

    Tara Mason October 16, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I can go meat free for days but my husband loves meat. I compromise and eat it more but I tend to make the same recipes over and over and when I try something new it’s never good.

    Reply

    Pua October 17, 2013 at 2:51 am

    The biggest meal planning challenge is definitely the fact that my hubby and I have COMPLETELY different tastes. For him, every meal needs meat and variety, but I can eat the same thing every night… as long as it doesn’t include meat!

    Reply

    Andrea October 23, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    The toughest thing for me when meal planning is trying to find something different. I feel like I am seriously stuck in a rut and cannot dig myself out of it! Help!

    Reply

    Jen October 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    If you like Cook Smarts, you should check out Blue Apron! It’s Cook Smarts on steroids: not only do they send you weekly recipes and instructions, but they also send you all the ingredients you need to make them! I tried it on a whim, and I have become addicted. It has introduced me to so many recipes and ingredients.

    Reply

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