Jess Dang, owner of Cook + Smarts, knows a thing or two about cooking and food. So when we had a few questions on those exact topics, we turned to her. Read our Q&A below to pick up some helpful hints!
Uforia: What are three super foods you cook with frequently?
Jess Dang, Cook + Smarts: The 3 super foods that I include almost weekly in my grocery trips are kale, broccoli, and salmon
CS: On nights when I hit the gym after work, I am starving by the time I get home. On those nights, I head straight to my oven and throw in some fish and chopped up vegetables (both drizzled with olive oil, salt & pepper) at 400 degrees. I then jump in the shower, by the time I get out, dinner is ready. To add some flavor, I usually mix together a simple vinaigrette (chopped shallots, sherry vinegar, mustard, and olive oil are one of my go-to’s) as well, and chow down.
CS: My clients call me for all sort of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they’ve just been diagnosed with an illness or a food allergy and need to learn how to cook for their new health needs. Our mommy clients are always looking for new ways to feed their kids healthy ingredients. The most common need though is just basic cooking skills, like how to use a knife properly. By giving our clients a solid foundation in the kitchen, they can be more efficient and save time, something that everyone needs!
CS: My immersion blender. I use it for making my pureed soups and simple homemade tomato sauce.
U: What do you suggest your clients with children cook?
We try to cook a lot of different vegetables in really flavorful ways. Even if their kids are picky, it’s important to just keep exposing them to lots of different ingredients. They may not try or like them all, but the more they see them, the less “new and scary” they’ll feel. It’s also important to make vegetables taste good, and I will use kid-friendly flavors like soy sauce, brown sugar, and even ketchup to dress them up. For parents that are really struggling with picky eaters, we’ll also work on ways to “hide” healthy ingredients.
CS: I truly believe in moderation, so indulging in that sweet tooth every so often is completely encouraged. In between those more indulgent moments, substitute servings of fruit or mix some jam into a small bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese.
CS: I am pre-diabetic, so I try to eat a lot of high-fiber foods. I always start out my day with a high-protein breakfast. Sometimes it’s an omelet with vegan sausage and vegetables such as spinach and / or tomatoes folded into it; other mornings it’s left-overs scrambled up with some eggs. For lunch, it’s either left-overs and some fruit or a hearty salad with chicken, fish, or eggs and good fats from nuts or avocado. I keep dinners simple on weekdays, so I can spend more time working (the work of an entrepreneur never ends!) or spending time with my husband. One of my favorite challenges is to look at what I have in my fridge and pantry and see what meal I can throw together. Simple but versatile cooking formulas such as curries, stir-fries, quinoa or farro bowls, pureed soups, and roasts allow me to improv dinner almost every night. My husband is a vegetarian so I use a lot of non-animal proteins such as tofu, seitan, and beans, whole grains, and vegetables to make a nutritious meal for us.
U: What are some of your favorite dishes to serve when you’re entertaining?
CS: My favorite entertaining menu is one that allows me to spend maximum time with my guests and a crowd pleaser for even the pickiest of eaters. I look for make-ahead recipes or low-maintenance recipes that don’t require a lot of attention from me. One of my favorite menus is a simple roasted chicken stuffed with oranges and rosemary. I like to accompany that with a citrus and avocado salad and perhaps make a light pasta dish to go along with it.
- A few types of oil: canola, olive, and toasted sesame are the ones I most frequently use
- Many types of vinegar: red wine or sherry, balsamic, apple cider. It guarantees that a vinaigrette / marinade is never too far away
- Frozen fish: fish is incredibly rich in nutrients that our bodies need. To prevent multiple trips to the grocery store for fresh fish, I always keep a few vacuum packed fillets in my freezer. Half an hour in a bowl of room-temperature water, and you’ve brought it back to life!
- Frozen vegetables: edamame, peas, carrots, corn, spinach. They can be thrown in a quinoa bowl, fried rice, or soup at a moment’s notice
- Canned food: diced tomatoes, beans, artichokes, olives
- Assortment of grains: farro, quinoa, brown rice, arborio rice.
U: What are some time-saving tips for busy clients when it comes to cooking?