Editor’s note: We welcome popular mom blogger Bree Glenn to our blog today as she writes about national Eat Better, Eat Together month.
The hubs and I make a concerted effort to eat dinner together, with the kid, every night. With both of us working full time, that sometimes doesn’t happen. But, I’d say we hit the mark at least 95% of the time.
Being a mom and wife who works full time sometimes makes it difficult to get a hot, healthy meal on the table. Lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who is well-versed in the kitchen and often jumps in, when I can’t be there to get it done.
Often times, I’ll have the hubs and/or the kid assist me with food prep. It’s a great way to cut down on the time it takes to prepare a meal, and it brings us all together in a fun activity. Another way I save time is to use the Crockpot.
By cooking a meal for us to eat together, I’m not only ensuring we eat a healthy meal, but I’m also ensuring I get some time with my guys to just sit down together over a meal and talk about our days – about how work was for the grownups and how school was for the kid. It serves as a way for us to connect, in our busy, busy lives. I know this will only become more and more important as the kid gets older.
When I was a kid, eating dinner together as a family was a big deal. I can’t imagine a life of not sitting down, at a table and eating at least one meal a day with my family.
Making time to eat together as a family is not only important to the family unit, but according to Washington State University when families eat together:
· Children do better in school and have fewer behavior problems.
· Teenagers are less likely to use alcohol or drugs.
· Communication between children and adults improves.
· Children understand their family’s values and traditions.
· Meals are more nutritious and healthful.
October is National Eat Better, Eat Together Month. I encourage you to click here for more information, recipes and ideas on how you and your family can start the tradition!
Bree Glenn blogs on The Mom with Moxie about living life, to the fullest and finding humor, in life’s little – and not so little – messes. She’s a wife, mom and PR exec trying to juggle family, work, life and everything else. As someone who has dealt with health issues, weight issues, financial issues, job issues, etc., she feels she can provide a unique point-of-view, on life – and how to live it to the fullest, despite whatever trials life may throw at you. She’s also an avid supporter of social media and enjoys connecting with online friends and meeting new ones through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Bree and her husband, MenDale, live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, with their son, “The Kid.”
We are excited to announce the winners of our first Blogger Extreme Food Makeover! I just wanted to say how excited and happy I am with the entries; they were absolutely beautiful and undoubtedly delicious … and if any of you ever want me to taste test the food, you know how to reach me!
First of all, it was a pretty exciting contest online. Stephanie jumped out to an early lead but thanks to a huge outpouring of support during the last half of the voting period, Colleen ran away with the title of Fan Favorite for her healthy makeover of fried chicken.
Here’s a sampling of what some of our voters said:
Colleen gets my vote. She prepared a well-rounded menu where everything was healthy, delicious and inexpensive.
The coleslaw was vibrantly crisp and fresh and the chili corn muffins had an unexpectedly delicious zip to them.
Check out all of the comments here.
Our other winner was selected by Jake Williams and Vani Sohikian, Cooking Matters Michigan coordinators with Jake weighing in as our chief culinary expert and Vani offering her insight from a nutritional standpoint. They both agreed that Dave Moss reigned supreme with his Indian-inspired turkey burger, sweet potato fries and dessert.
Jake picked Dave because “not only did he use all 3 secret ingredients but he embodied what an Extreme Food Makeover is … he used a theme of flavors to inspire his dish.”
Jake added that by taking a cue from an ethnic cuisine, Dave was able to make a dish that tasted great without relying on a lot of fat, sugar and salt.
“Overall it’s a good flavor profile and it made me want to make that burger,” Jake said.
From a nutritional standpoint, Vani gave kudos to Dave for using the MyPlate as a guide.
“He did a great job of incorporating all 5 food groups in good proportions, and used ALL of the secret ingredients in a very creative way,” she said.
“I also found the recipe for the turkey burger extremely intriguing. Adding corn and onion was a great touch and a sneaky way to add some veggies to the dish! Also, the Greek yogurt/ mayo condiment with some curry powder not only sounds excellent and exotic, but is a much healthier version of the usual mayo/ mustard/ ketchup topping that most people use.
“Lastly, the dessert definitely made my mouth water and I definitely will be trying this at home. It is surprising how delicious Greek yogurt can be as a dessert, especially when you are eating it with sweet and delicious roasted plums.”
Congrats to everyone and thank you for a great competition!
“Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.”
Like many chefs and cooks, A’Donna Fuller’s love of cooking was inspired by her mom. Now a personal chef, A’Donna finds joy in cooking for others.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I spent most of my childhood in Detroit. I went to college in Columbus, Ohio. I eventually ended up in the Ypsi/Ann Arbor area.I got my feet wet in formal culinary training at Washtenaw Community College although most of my professional training came from studying Culinary Management (Art Institute in Novi). I still take continuing education classes taught by leading industry experts at Schoolcraft College and anywhere else I can find culinary classes.
I spent my entire childhood watching my mother take great pride in planning and cooking family meals, host fabulous dinner parties, and even cater for some celebrities. When I had the wild idea to go vegetarian as a teenager, my mom gladly took on the challenge of making 2 meals every night – one meal for my father and siblings and a hearty and fresh meat-free option for me. She was so creative, I was never bored with her take on vegetarian meals and couldn’t wait to get home just to see what she would come up with next!
How and why did you end up pursuing a career as a personal chef?
There was nothing I loved more than watching my mom meticulously plate meals and plan dinners as a kid. She took great pride in cooking and presenting meals like it was a sport. Watching her developed my obsession with cooking, food science, and planning menus for parties.
I was first introduced to the idea of becoming a personal chef through an article I read long before I ever took my first culinary class. I found all the information I could find about the personal chef industry and decided to give it a try. Years later I joined the American Personal & Private Chef Association – they give me all the training I need for the personal chef aspect of culinary arts. I have always enjoyed helping people and cooking, so being a personal chef was a perfect fit. After hearing about the burnout chefs often experience in commercial kitchens, I could not stand the thought of stepping into a commercial kitchen. This is when I ultimately decided to make my way into the private sector.
Tell us about your business. What do you specialize in?
Bella Donna Cooks! is a personal chef business that helps families and individuals that are too busy to cook, don’t know how to cook, or have recently been diagnosed with a health condition prompting them to make immediate changes to their diets. Even though I love to cook everything, I specialize in vegan, diabetic, low carb, and petite pastry options. Although my primary line of work is as a personal chef, I also teach culinary classes, do cooking demos, do social catering for intimate events and host cupcake decorating parties for kids and adults. If it’s in the culinary arena, I will do it!
Why did you start volunteering for Cooking Matters?
I thought it was the most amazing idea that a structured program like Cooking Matters existed. I feel it is imperative to make sure everyone knows about healthy eating on a budget. Even though I own and operate a business that does just that, I honestly find it hard to associate a fee with helping people to eat healthy! I am so happy to have the opportunity to pass on the knowledge of healthy, quick, fresh, and budget-friendly meals through Cooking Matters. Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.
What has been a highlight from class for you? Please give a specific example.
First Dorothy, Vani, and the volunteers that I have worked with are amazing! They are supportive and trust my opinions.
The biggest highlight from the last (Cooking Matters for Adults) class (at Go-Getters) was during frittata week. Once I saw the puzzled looks on the students’ faces when I announced the recipe name – I asked the students to think of a quiche and an omelette having a baby. Most said “Oh, I get it!” ….then a slightly different response, a student quipped “I don’t eat eggs!”….I asked her why and she just couldn’t give me a “good answer.” I put her in charge of cracking all 12 eggs, helping to season the egg mixture, and when the frittata was done, I personally served her first and said “Just try it.” I went to the back and started washing dishes. I came back out and guess what? Her plate was empty! I asked her what happened to her frittata, she said “I ate it, and it was good…this is something I could see myself making for me and my family!” I was so excited that she even tried it, but the fact that she was willing to duplicate the recipe at home and started asking questions about other ingredients she could put in it? I was floored! It is incredible to be able to introduce new concepts, foods, and techniques that people so often overlook.
What is your favorite aspect of being a chef?
I love researching recipes and shopping in unconventional places for unique ingredients. I really like introducing new foods to people. Especially foods that people think are “too healthy” to possibly be good! I live for the moment when my dish is served, and I get to see their faces light up after eating a dish that I made.
You have a knack for budgeting. What are your top tips for cooking healthy on a budget?
The biggest tip is to be prepared!
#1- Plan your meals for two weeks at a time if at all possible. This gives you the opportunity to share as many ingredients across as many dishes as possible. Plus I see way too many people only buying their groceries for 1-2 days at a time. Not only is it a time killer, but you tend to overspend this way.
#2 – Keep staples on hand (seasonings, canned goods, frozen vegetables/fruits, even having some frozen meats). These staples will almost always complement your meals, so when you make your grocery list – you will not have to buy nearly as much. Stock up on fresh fruits and veggies when they are on sale, bring them home and cut up what you think you may not use within 3 days, and pop them in the freezer in small portions. If packaged properly, they will last for months – reducing your grocery bill over time. You can use them for healthy desserts, smoothies, soups, stews, and sauces.
#3 – Last but not least, do not throw away extra food or let any food spoil if you can help it – you can do this by re-purposing food that is from leftovers. Did you shred too much chicken for your chicken tortilla soup? Freeze the extra chicken and pull it out later in the week to make chicken wraps, chicken salads, or chicken enchiladas.
When you’re not cooking, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to go to the local museums and check out new exhibits and will often find a new restaurant in the area to try right after visiting the museum. I love to listen to smooth jazz and Stevie Wonder!
Finally, can you share with us your favorite budget-friendly, healthy recipe?
Here is my favorite vegetarian recipe that I submitted to a vegetarian website – around $4.75/recipe!
Awesome Angel Hair
1/2 pound angel hair pasta (whole wheat or Dreamfields low carb brand)
kosher coarse sea salt, for pasta water
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 (8 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli
1 (8 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained (no salt added)
*optional – fresh parmesan to sprinkle on top
1. Prepare the angel hair according to box directions. While the pasta is boiling, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Adjust the heat to low and add the garlic to the pan, and saute for 2 minutes.
2. Add the dried seasonings to the pan. Drain the pasta and slowly add the pasta into the olive oil mixture, stirring after each addition (this is to make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce).
3. After all the pasta has been added, toss in the chickpeas, tomatoes, and broccoli. Toss until well combined and the broccoli is heated through, plate and serve!
For the past few months we have had the invaluable help of John Heikka, our chef intern extraordinaire. John just recently wrapped up his internship with us and put into words his experiences and shared with us what brought him to the wonderful world of cooking. He is also teaching a class in Pontiac as a volunteer so we are happy to keep him among our volunteer ranks!
Here’s his story:
I’ve been married to my wife Jan for 25 years, and while we have had some challenges like any couple. She is the absolute best. I appreciate so much her ongoing support throughout the last and very trying 6 years. Jan is the cook for a day care in Sterling Heights and amazes me with how many different dishes she can produce with a microwave and rice cooker (their facility does not have a stove).
We have two great kids, Robert and Sandra. Robert is now 19 and enrolled and excelling at CAD design at ITT Tech. Robert is a volunteer in our church’s children’s ministry and works as a counselor at “Kids Camp” every summer. Sandra is 12 going on 38. She is certainly an incredibly gifted and talented young lady. Sandra also is a volunteer in our children’s ministry where she teaches and sings. She is currently taking piano as well. Sandra is a straight A student and a member of a student organization dedicated to fighting hunger. She is also my “Sous Chef” at home. They are the best people I know and I am looking forward to going back to “hanging” with them, since my schooling is over.
I am a Detroiter and darn proud of that. I grew up the literal definition of a “fan (atic) of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, Wings and Wolverines. I graduated high school in 1973 from East Detroit and studied for three years at Sacred Heart Seminary to become a Catholic priest. Got that one wrong! I like Catholics, nothing personal, but I’m not even Catholic anymore. In the early 80’s I met Jan, and left my pursuit of an accounting degree for marital bliss. Back then you could get a job, work hard and just keep moving up. I did just that working for a commercial leasing company and a sub-contractor for 20 years in collections and customer service. I also became an amateur baseball umpire while volunteering at church in the children’s ministry.
I lost my job with the now defunct sub-contractor in November 2005 and we ended up losing our house and basically, as it seemed, our life. I had two surgeries including a heart repair procedure, and after that it was just impossible to land a job that lasted. The four of us currently abide in a 950-square-foot apartment in Warren. I hope to change that soon!
Finally, someone told me that I need to go back to school. So I said, if I have to go back to school, then I am going to have fun. So I enrolled back at Macomb Community College in the Culinary Arts program. I had spent some time teaching kids how to make bread and thought maybe there will be something there for me. And thus, in my last semester I landed a wonderful opportunity for an internship as a chef instructor at Gleaners Community Food Bank in the Cooking Matters program.
My ultimate goal is to be involved with food education. Food is certainly a magical thing. Can you think of any major life event/celebration that does not involve food? Most of them do. Food culture is a part of our families and society. I want to see well executed and simple foods of our traditions come back to our life events and certainly our families’ tables as a way to bring people together again. Somebody has to teach the skills and recipes that have been laid aside by past generations.
But for now, I will pursue a career as a prep cook or institutional cook and further hone my skills. But if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll jump on anything that involves the educational end of cookery.
Why he wanted to get involved in Cooking Matters
I was never a “restaurant guy” prior to my enrollment at Macomb and I’ve always had a passion for teaching. So it was a natural fit to develop my skills and confidence while having fun. You should love what you do and do what you love.
It all started early last November when I was conversing with Kathy Grech, our table service instructor at Macomb about how people are just going to have to learn how to take a chicken apart again due to rising food costs. She immediately told me to contact Jake Williams and I did. I would have been happy to just volunteer as a chef/instructor, so being offered the internship was like winning the Super Bowl.
Overall, the class participants were the main highlight. The opportunity to be part of a team teaching a lot of the basics I learned in school in a manner that has such potential to effectively change lives both mentally and physically, is just phenomenal.
I recall early on in a Kids Class in Highland Park this little quiet girl who appeared to be shoved aside by her classmates, telling me after the class in a barely audible volume, “Thank you.” You never know if they are abused, malnourished, bullied or all the above. Her face, voice and those two simple words will never leave me. It’s also what began to build a passion for food education and I knew I was in the right place.
One week we were doing Banana Quesadillas and the coordinator for the class left the honey and peanut butter in her vehicle overnight in the middle of winter. Our coordinators are all great, however they happen to be human, just like the rest of us. The honey needed to be mixed with the peanut butter and some cinnamon. I looked over and saw the participant visibly struggling to mix these extremely cold items. As I saw the clock ticking, I then decided to just put the stainless steel bowl on the stove and whisk as fast as I could. I knew it work, but not a few people around the room were looking at me in an interesting manner. The quesadillas were great. (Editor’s note: This was me. Sorry, John! –dorothy)
Just recently we completed a Spanish speaking class in Mexican Town and the ladies on their way out telling me in their broken English that they learned so much and “Gracias” was really cool stuff. Not so much their words, but their facial expressions make my day, because people lives are being changed for the better.
Every Week One class I do now usually has a sauté’ opportunity and I love asking them why chefs toss items in the pan. Every time somebody will say,” To mix all the items?”. And I always respond, “Well…that is part of it, but don’t I look cool!?!”
His secrets in the kitchen
Attitude. Your determination to succeed will be influenced by your determination. There are two kinds of kitchen experiences, success and education. Granted education can be a little disappointing, but if seek out the knowledge you were missing and are determined, then success will be yours!
In my perfect world, every kitchen has some cast iron cookware. It is economical, easy to clean and heats very evenly. I’ve used my Dutch Oven as a deep fryer. This stuff lasts forever.
Thirdly, salads are generally under used in everyday home cooking. They are healthy and interesting. To me, 4 ounces of beautifully seasoned and grilled beef tenderloin on top of some leafy greens with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, dried cherries, and red onions with a nice homemade vinaigrette is just heaven! Fruit salads are great all day as well.
My most humbling experience came this last semester in school. I was going to make a tomato fennel soup, which in the past was really good with a lemon/lime gremolata garnish. In the middle of winter I decided to use fresh roma tomatoes instead of canned. It was a very educational experience. The tomatoes being out of season were so acidic, that the soup was complete disaster. I just kicked myself all the way home.
My most memorable moment came at home prior to Christmas. I was baking cinnamon bread while my wife and the kids were decorating the tree. The pine scent and the cinnamon aroma just says family and Christmas like nothing I’ve ever encountered.
Everyonewho is involved in cookery has a “food” activity that they find relaxing. For me, it is grilling some sort of protein or baking bread. I will still knead my bread by hand periodically. It’s good exercise! “Foodieism” can be a bit of a mental illness for some us.
I enjoy playing “competitive putt-putt” with my family. It gets verbally brutal, but we have fun. Also, you can find us in the fall picking apples and other produce when it’s available.
The whole family is big sports fans. We all play and spectate, especially pro football.
A healthy recipe
This is one of my new favorite recipes for a side dish. Simple and elegant. Very nutritious.
Onion, small dice 3 oz.
Olive Oil 1 Tbsp.
Quinoa, rinsed 4 oz, or ½ cup
Water or Vegetable Stock 8 fluid ounces or 1 cup
Kosher Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste
1. In a small sauce pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions over medium heat for a couple minutes till they start to turn clear.
2. Add the quinoa and brown very slightly.
3. Add the stock or water and season with salt and pepper. For this recipe volume start with ¼ teaspoon of both.
4. Bring to a boil and immediately turn heat to low. Cover pot with lid and simmer till Quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.
You can add any vegetable with the onions. Any spice can be added with the salt and pepper. Any herb can be added at the very end.
You can adjust the salt and pepper at the end of cooking.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Born and raised in the southeastern suburbs of Philadelphia, I’m a true “Philly girl.” I grew up in a household where education was very important. Through college, I studied at Catholic schools. Eventually I earned my master’s degree. Fifteen years ago, my husband and I moved from the Philadelphia area to metro Detroit with our three young children. In moving, I left a job I loved at a teaching hospital that was like family to me. It was where my three children and myself were born. I had most recently worked there as an outpatient nutritionist/registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Arriving in Michigan, I focused on settling my family in their new environment. I quickly became involved in my children’s schools, Girl Scout programs and sports activities.
What led you to go into nutrition and become a registered dietitian?
In my early high school years, we had a career center at school that was staffed with women who listened and offered good direction. Back then, I knew I liked working with people, had always enjoyed studying science and had thought about a teaching degree. That combination added up to dietetics/nutrition science. My various work experiences in high school and college continued to strengthen my passion for and interest in the nutrition field.
Tell us about your career in dietetics. Where have you worked?
Before working in hospitals and even studying dietetics in college, my work in the health care field began young – at the age of 16. After graduating from college, I spent a year in a dietetic internship in New York City. All those experiences helped me become a motivated young professional.
As a young clinical dietitian, I had an insatiable desire to provide my patients with the best nutrition care I could offer. At the same time I began my master’s degree, I took a job at a teaching hospital where I engaged in experiences I had been seeking – such as, teaching medical interns and residents, dietetic interns and staff, and classes of inpatients.
I moved into an outpatient nutritionist position after a few years. I worked with a wide variety of patients and taught various group classes for specific needs. Before our family’s move to Michigan, I helped start up our hospital’s accredited Diabetes Education Program, and I became certified as a diabetes educator.
How did you hear about Cooking Matters? Why did you decide to volunteer?
I first heard about the program at the March 2011 SEMDA meeting. Sarah Mills, a registered dietitian from Gleaners Food Bank, had a table with information and encouraged registered dietitians to sign up for training. I decided to volunteer because I knew teaming a chef and a registered dietitian could make a strong impact with a clear message. And it would be fun!
What do you like best about volunteering for us?
I enjoy seeing a new class bond throughout the weeks and form a strong connectedness. We all share our knowledge with each other. I always learn so much from the chef, coordinator and participants.
Can you give a specific example of a highlight from class?
The Cooking Matters participants enjoy the grocery tour and they are amazed about the content of packaged foods that are presented during the tours. The grocery tour gives the participants a great experience where they can pick out specific food items and we can discuss the nutrition significance of the products that they are interested in knowing more about.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
How I use my time has changed in recent years since my youngest children are away at college. I enjoy hiking, biking, gardening, traveling, reading, watching movies and weaving reed baskets for family and friends. My favorite pastime is planning, preparing and enjoying a good meal around the table with family and friends.
Nana’s Pasta Fagioli Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ -1 pound ditalini pasta -whole wheat
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
1 – 29 ounce can tomato sauce
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups water
1/3 cup grated cheese
1 – 15 ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 – 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until translucent. Stir in garlic and cook until tender. Reduce heat , and stir in tomato sauce, water, parsley, basil, oregano, cannellini beans, kidney beans an d grated cheese. Simmer 1 hour.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Stir into soup.
As a child, Rohani Foulkes would go to the farmers market with her family, $5 in hand and a curious mind. She says she and her brother would be free to walk around and buy whatever they wanted.
“I distinctly remember loving that place, the smells, the vendors and all of their produce and I especially loved the smell of our home when we’d unpack our bounty of things such as fresh cilantro, basil and lemonade fruit home,” says Rohani.
Her love of cooking, sharing and eating is apparent as she teaches a group of women at St. John Riverview Senior Wellness Center, where she is volunteering for a Cooking Matters for Adults class.
The chef and teacher answered a few questions for us about her plans and her thoughts on her new hometown, Detroit.
You came to Michigan from Australia. Are you originally from there? Can you take us through your journey from Down Under to the Great Lakes State?
A snowball fight brought me here actually. I met my now husband in 2010 when I came out to the U.S. to work with the United Nations, Education outreach division in New York City. I initially lived in a little studio in Chelsea then thanks to a chance encounter moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was out with a friend one night and while walking down Bedford Avenue copped a snowball and that’s how we met. So, after two years of flying 10,000 miles at 24 hours every few months we finally decided to settle on his hometown here in Detroit.
Now that you are a Michiganian, what are your plans, career wise? Do you have plans to open a restaurant or some other type of food-related business?
I think that no matter where you are in the world it’s important to understand that place in that time and I think that Detroit needs skilled people willing to share skills and empower others to do good things and in turn contribute to their community. Something I’ve quickly come to understand about Detroit are the very many community members enthusiastically working to rejuvenate the city and empower its people. Something interestingly organic to Detroit is the greening and urban farming movement and I’d love to learn as much as I can about this. I’m a chef by trade and more recently a high school teacher and I’d like to combine these skills, working in collaboration with other local organizations/businesses to offer vocational training in my own kitchen someday.
How and when did you get interested in cooking?
I have ALWAYS been interested in cooking, it was the first and only thing I wanted to do for the first two decades of my life and I still love it. When I was little my mother would take my little brother and I to the local farmers markets every weekend. We would be given a grand total of $5 each and be free to stroll around and buy what ever we liked. I distinctly remember loving that place, the smells, the vendors and all of their produce and I especially loved the smell of our home when we’d unpack our bounty of things such as fresh cilantro, basil and lemonade fruit home. I love markets, I love food, I love cooking, eating and sharing.
What is your education and experience in the culinary arts?
I started out by making little treats for my family and moved into a full-blown trade apprenticeship when I was 15. I worked at a number of restaurants, hotels and cafes but probably the most fun was a resort island in the Great Barrier Reef off the north coast of Australia. Probably the most confronting thing I ever came across in a cookery sense was seeing an enormous sea turtle and Dugong (I believe you call Manatee) being slaughtered for a ceremonial feast in the Torres Strait Islands, an indigenous tribe off the very tip of Australia, which is where my mother is from.
Why did you decide to volunteer for Cooking Matters?
That’s a pretty simple answer, because I can.
As I mentioned prior, I think it’s vital in any situation to contribute, I have skills to share and the time to offer and from what I understand that’s as good as gold in this situation. As a newbie to the city I also think it’s important to get out and about and involved with the community you’re a part of.
Is there a specific moment or highlight from a class you have done so far that is most memorable to you?
The women who make up the class at St John’ Riverview Senior Wellness Center … have been lighting up my Wednesdays for the past 5 weeks. They’re genuinely interested and engaged in what they’ve signed up for and they bring a lot of life and laughs to the lessons.
(Also,) the first time I saw Dorothy so swiftly yet meticulously pack her boxes and bags of equipment and the day that (class assistant) Gaurang (Garg) attempted to do the same, hilarious times!
When you are not cooking, what are your other interests?
Can you share with us your favorite healthy, budget-friendly recipe with us?
I love this recipe, I created it for the no/reduced salt class, it’s easy, it’s tasty and just as good as leftovers!
Chicken Dumpling soup
Total Time: 30 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 60 mini meatballs)
• 2 to 3 tablespoons cooking oil
• 1 large onion, diced
• 2 carrots, diced
• 1/2 stalk celery, diced
• 4 to 6 cups chicken broth
• 1 cup fresh cut green beans
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 2 bay leaves
• 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 tablespoon 2% or skim milk
• 1 tablespoon ketchup
• 3/4 cup grated Romano
• 2 teaspoons of no salt seasoning
• ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound ground chicken
1. In a medium bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, milk, ketchup, Romano cheese, and the salt and pepper. Add the chicken and gently stir to combine.
2. Using teaspoon measure and form the chicken mixture, with damp hands, roll the chicken pieces into mini meatballs.
3. In a small amount of cooking oil, working in batches, add the meatballs and cook without moving until brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Meanwhile, in another skillet, using a small amount of cooking oil, sweat the onion, carrots and celery. Add chicken, broth, green beans, celery salt, parsley and bay leaves and bring to a boil.
5. Add the meatballs to the soup base and serve.
No Salt Seasoning
Total Time: 5 min
Yield: Approx 1 Cup or 16 servings for seasoning
5 teaspoons onion powder (or flakes depending on added salt in certain brands)
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or flakes depending on added salt in certain brands)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (powdered if possible)
Combine all ingredients in a small jar with a shaker top. Use for seasoning broiled fish, poultry, cooked vegetables, soup and stews, or place it on the table to be used individually.
Chef volunteer Henriette Hajjar brings to Cooking Matters her fusion style of cooking, her boundless energy and her passion for helping the community. She signed up to volunteer just a couple of months ago and is already teaching her second class.
When asked why she got involved, she says, “I felt responsible to answer the call and go for it and help. It is beautiful to give and share the gift that you have been blessed with, especially when you share it with someone who doesn’t have it and this is why I did decide to get involved in Cooking Matters.”
Not only is the caterer working on a new restaurant as well as volunteering with Chefs Move to Schools, she is also a mom. The busy chef took a break to answer some of our questions.
You have lived in many different parts of the world. Can you tell us a little about where you have lived and how and when you ended up in Michigan? Where are you originally from?
Aleppo (Syria – Middle East ) is my home town, where I was born to an Italian Armenian Mom and Palestinian Dad ……. I lived in Syria for a while then the family decided to move to Turkey, where i learned a lot about their cuisine and the fantastic authentic food that they have. Also I lived in Athens, Greece, where I felt in love with their cooking and the simple dishes that they have. Then I lived in Jordan for a while there too. That was my last station before I moved permanently to Michigan when I got married and I had to follow my heart and settle down in Michigan, which I love a lot.
When did you start cooking? Why did you go into culinary arts?
My love of food began when I was a child, as I grew up in a family filled with cooking and parties … I was born and raised in an Arabic/Italian/Armenian family where food is one of the most important pillars in the family and community. I hold my mother responsible for inspiring me to become a chef. She loved my way and insisted to let me help and cook for the family so every weekend my duty in the house was to go shopping for groceries with my mom and come home, clean, cut, organize and cook for family and friends. Having a restaurant business in my mom’s family made it easy for me to go and help on the weekend and after school. My love for cooking was so obvious to everybody in the family .
Tell us a little bit about your restaurant and the plans for your next restaurant.
My previous restaurant, Flairs Mediterranean Fusion, is a new generation of Mediterranean food (Fusion): balanced, fresh and very high-quality ingredients in a comfortable atmosphere. Our menu covered the Mediterranean region fusing Italian, French, Moroccan, Armenian, Middle Eastern, Greek and more.
The new restaurant that I am working on is Skewers Plus: the whole idea is to go fresh and healthy with natural cooking on the charcoal for simple and delicious food.
I know you are involved with the Chefs Move to Schools initiative. At which school do you work? How long have you been involved? What does your work there entail? What are the future plans/goals?
I am at Deerfield Elementary School in Novi. I have been involved in Chefs Move to Schools since 2011. What I do is prepare the dish that the students are going to try for that specific day, introducing the new MyPlate, talk about a new healthy way of eating, educate them nutritionally, let them try the sample that we made and see their reaction to the new food that we are presenting that day.
Why did you decided to get involved in Cooking Matters?
As an active member in my community I felt responsible to answer the call and go for it and help. It is beautiful to give and share the gift that you have been blessed with, especially when you share it with someone who doesn’t have it and this is why I did decide to get involved in Cooking Matters. Helping others and seeing them happy makes me happy too.
What do you like best about volunteering?
In my volunteering I am learning a lot as much as I am teaching. I love meeting new people, being exposed to a different environment, and seeing the others happy for what I give.
Is there a specific moment or highlight from a class you have done so far that is most memorable to you?
Yes ….my previous class (at ACCESS) was hilarious, loved the group and their culture and the funny thing … is they were so excited to cut and chop and prep the food even before me explaining what we need to do … I had a great time.
Can you share with us your favorite healthy, budget-friendly recipe with us?
Simple Tomato Sauce
Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 15 min
• 2 cups chopped tomato
• 1 teaspoon basil, chiffonade
• 1/2 teaspoon garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
• ½ cup of parmesan cheese
• Enough wheat pasta for two
1. Put olive oil and garlic in pan. Cook on medium heat until garlic is slightly brown.
2. Add chopped tomato, basil, Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt.
3. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
4. Cook pasta according to package directions.
5. Add cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir for couple of minutes.
6. Serve hot with sprinkle of parmesan cheese.