Each week, the menu takes inspiration from Lizzie Jacobs and Cordon McGee’s personal experiences from travels to family recipes
By Anne Tate
On Mondays and Tuesdays, the usually bustling Blue Dogwood Public Market is quiet – except for the sound of sizzling as Lizzie Jacobs sautes organic vegetables in a pan coated with olive oil. At the same time, Cordon McGee grills humanely raised meat while two other employees, along with Cordon’s mom, Florence Kaplan, help prep and package food. “It’s quite an intense environment in the kitchen,” Lizzie says. The holistic chef duo behind Goodness Cooks, a take-home meal service focused on healthy and clean cooking, is busy working toward their Tuesday night deadline – when area families stop by to pick up their prepared meals for the week.
Lizzie, who moved to Chapel Hill from London in 2007, and Cordon, who grew up in Greensboro, first bonded after meeting at Little Gnome Nursery & Preschool in 2014. The two new moms and personal chefs quickly became friends connecting over food and watching each others’ kids – Lizzie has one daughter, Clara Luz Jacobs, now 9; Cordon has two, Fae McGee, now 7, and Del McGee, now 10. Their first text message exchange involved a gluten-free Dutch baby pancake recipe.
After five years of friendship, Lizzie and Cordon considered how they could take their shared passion for nourishment a step further, together. “It’s hard in the age we’re living in to feed yourself healthy food and take the time to prepare and make food,” Lizzie says. So in 2019, they launched Goodness Cooks in a space they rented in Midway Community Kitchen. The first menu featured Mediterranean chicken with dates and olives, a butternut squash soup, and a beet and carrot slaw. “I’m sure we probably made like five trips to the local grocery store,” Lizzie says. “We didn’t understand amounts like we do now,” Cordon adds. When Midway closed, they relocated the business down the street to Blue Dogwood.
Although neither attended culinary school, both have food backgrounds. Lizzie received her certification as a health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2012 and has cooked for large groups for more than 20 years. Cordon earned a master’s degree in nutrition from UNC in 2012 and later worked at Acme and as a personal chef.
Each week’s menu takes inspiration from their personal experiences, like Cordon’s grandmother’s recipes and Lizzie’s travels around India and Brazil. The Goodness Cooks team also considers food’s impact on the body and mind, sourcing most of their ingredients from local, organic suppliers, including pasture-raised, grass-fed meat from Firsthand Foods and organic produce from Happy Dirt, both in Durham. “We couldn’t run this business without having those two businesses in our neighborhood,” Cordon says. “They’re fundamental to being able to offer the quality of ingredients that we want.”
Goodness Cooks is eco-friendly, too. The small business is committed to regenerative practices and produces very little waste. Customers can opt to have their food packaged in jars that are returned to Goodness Cooks to be reused. To help with meal distribution, Goodness Cooks now delivers with Across The Board, a sustainable food delivery company.
In Lizzie and Cordon’s first week of business, the pair cooked for 24 households. Now, three years later, Goodness Cooks serve around 65 households a week. Lizzie and Cordon hope Goodness Cooks continues to bring people together, similarly to how it made them even closer. Last fall, a longtime customer came to pick up her meals with her 1-year-old baby. It was a full-circle moment for the pair. Lizzie says, “It felt so gratifying to know that from the moment she was pregnant to now with a child in her arms, she’s been nourished by our cooking.”
BEET HUMMUS WITH ZA’ATAR
Makes about 4 1/2 cups
Beets are the star of this dish that could serve as a side or a meal. The earthy root vegetable supports blood health and is rich in antioxidants, iron and minerals. “A lot of people don’t like beets,” Cordon says. “But [in this recipe], the flavor that is off-putting for a lot of people is balanced by the nuttiness of the sesame, the tahini, the lemon’s acid and the chickpeas.” Goodness Cooks tops off this colorful hummus with Greek Sparta Kefalas olive oil from the Haw River Wine Man in Burlington.
- 2 small or 1 medium beet(s)
- 3 cup cooked chickpeas (Two 13.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained; or cook 1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas)
- 1 cup tahini
- 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
- ó cup lemon juice
- ó cup high quality olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
- 1 Tbsp. sumac
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat beets in olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, then wrap up tight in a tin foil packet. This way the beets retain their nutrients, color and flavor. Cook in the oven for 30-50 minutes, depending on size. You’ll know they’re done when the flesh pierces easily with a knife.
- Make the za’atar. In a pan over medium heat, dry toast the sesame seeds until fragrant and toss with the other ingredients. Set aside.
- Let the beets cool, then peel the skin off, slice off the ends and cut into big chunks. The skins should come off easily if they are fresh beets and thoroughly cooked.
- Add all the ingredients for the hummus into a large food processor. (If yours is small, feel free to do two batches). Blend until smooth and taste for salt.
- Pour the hummus into your container of choice, and sprinkle liberally with the za’atar. Make sure to save the extra to boost the flavor of any roasted vegetables or salad dressing.
Note: Goodness Cooks doesn’t usually cook this small a portion of beets, so the roast time may be a bit off. The shorter time is likely enough for so few beets, but check yours often.