Posts filed under ‘Cooking Matters’

The Farm Bill, SNAP, and You

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As Congress weighs in on the Farm Bill-  the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government passed every 5 years- the future of SNAP (and SNAP education) is at stake.

What is SNAP?

SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net.  The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service also works with State partners and the retail community to improve program administration and ensure program the integrity.

What is SNAP education?

The goal of SNAP-Ed is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices within a limited budget and choose active lifestyles consistent with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), section 241, established SNAP-Ed as the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program. The Act calls for SNAP-Ed to include an emphasis on obesity prevention in addition to nutrition education.  Cooking Matters is a SNAP-Ed funded program.

It seems like everybody has their own two cents about SNAP (formerly food stamps) but we like to let the facts speak for themselves.

SNAP: Facts, Myths, and Realities

             SNAP is targeted at the most vulnerable.

  • 76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.[i]
  • Recent studies show that 49% of all SNAP participants are children (age 18 or younger), with almost two-thirds of SNAP children living in single-parent households. In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 16% go to households with disabled persons, and 9% go to households with senior citizens.
  • SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).
  • The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744

SNAP is responsive to changes in need, providing needed food assistance as families fall into economic hardship and then transitioning away as their financial situation stabilizes.

  • SNAP participation historically follows unemployment with a slight lag. SNAP participation grew during the recession, responding quickly and effectively to increased need. As the number of unemployed people increased by 94% from 2007 to 2011, SNAP responded with a 70% increase in participation over the same period. 
  • As the economy recovers and people go back to work, SNAP participation and program costs, too, can be expected to decline.

SNAP has a strong record of program integrity.

  • SNAP error rates declined by 57% since FY2000, from 8.91% in FY2000 to a record low of 3.80% in FY2011. The accuracy rate of 96.2% (FY2011) is an all-time program high and is considerably higher than other major benefit programs, for example Medicare fee-for-service (91.5%) or Medicare Advantage Part C (88.6%).
  • Two-thirds of all SNAP payment errors are a result of caseworker error. Nearly one-fifth are underpayments, which occur when eligible participants receive less in benefits than they are eligible to receive.
  • The national rate of food stamp trafficking declined from about 3.8 cents per dollar of benefits redeemed in 1993 to about 1.0 cent per dollar during the years 2006 to 2008.

The need for food assistance is already greater than SNAP can fill.

  • SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month, and 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year.
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal.
  • Only 55% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP

source: http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/public-assistance-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-myths-realities.aspx

What Congress is Proposing:

House Ag Committee cuts = Almost $21 billion over 10 years.

These cuts:

  • Limit state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments;
    • 850,000 households, which include 1.7 million people, primarily in 15 states, could lose $90 in SNAP per month;
  • Restrict the state Categorical Eligibility option to change asset and gross income tests ($11.6 billion cut);
    • 1.8 million individuals per year could lose SNAP benefits (CBO);
    • 210,000 low-income children could lose free school meal access.
    • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).
  • Eliminate state bonuses for effective SNAP operation ($480 million cut).

Senate cut = $4.1 billion over 10 years.

The cut:  Limits state SNAP coordination with LIHEAP (heat and eat) payments.

source: http://frac.org/leg-act-center/farm-bill-2012/

Considering the fact that 49 million Americans are food insecure– 16 million of which are children– the Farm Bill and its impact on SNAP has very real and serious consequences.

Even if politics aren’t your thing, the Farm Bill affects ALL Americans.  We all gotta eat, right?

June 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

My AmeriCorps Experience Thusfar…

See the original post on the No Kid Hungry blog, here

It is National AmeriCorps Week.  To celebrate, No Kid Hungry is highlighting the work of Cooking Matters National Direct AmeriCorps Members throughout the country.

alexa americorps

Alexa Eisenberg is our current AmeriCorps member.  Alexa was born and raised in southeast Michigan and has recently moved to Detroit, where she loves exploring new places and meeting new people.  She coordinates classes, oversees social media, and works on volunteer recruitment.  Although her interest in food systems is broad, she is particularly passionate about the food justice issues that face Detroit. In 2012 she earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Michigan in Environmental Sciences and Communications with a focus on urban sustainability. Upon graduation, Alexa joined the Cooking Matters team at the Gleaners Food Bank in Detroit, Michigan.  She loves working for Cooking Matters and feels proud to be a part of the Gleaners team.

I am currently in my fifth month of service as the Cooking Matters AmeriCorps member for the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan. As my first professional endeavor after college, this position with Gleaners gives me a wonderful introduction to employment, and may be the beginning of a meaningful career in public health.  This experience has furthered my interest the connection between food justice and preventative health care for diet-related illnesses including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Each day I am glad to go to work, knowing that my time and effort is spent working to improve the health of others.

My favorite part of the job is my regular interaction with the communities of Detroit.  I grew up in the Detroit suburbs and have a strong affinity for the city, but a lot to learn.  Coordinating classes for Cooking Matters gives me the opportunity to spend time in parts of the city I would not typically find myself, interacting with Detroiters I would not otherwise come to know. Detroit is a city of strong, independent, and loyal citizens that want what is best for their families and their communities

Healthy food options are scarce in many areas of Detroit. Cooking Matters empowers Detroiters with the skills necessary to make healthy choices when options are limited. The ability to read food labels, understand how to prepare fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables, and how to meal plan and shop with a list may seem trivial, but can greatly impact food choices made by individuals on an everyday basis.  By teaching participants that it is possible to prepare nutritious, affordable meals that their families will enjoy, Cooking Matters can help individuals make real, lasting changes to their diets.  My experience with Cooking Matters has shown me that in addition to food access, food education is a vital component of community food security, particularly in Detroit.

Until working with Cooking Matters, I never realized the potential for nutrition and culinary education in empowering families to fight hunger and lead healthier lifestyles.  It is often the case that participants want to provide healthy meals for their family, but don’t know where to start.  I recently gave a Shopping Matters tour to a single, working mother of six who was looking to change her family’s eating habits.  She found it difficult enough to get food on the table, let alone fresh fruits and vegetables. We discussed money saving tips like buying whole foods in bulk, utilizing frozen and canned options, and choosing whole grains to keep her kids fuller for longer.  We brainstormed quick, healthy meals she could make after a long day of work to replace the ramen noodles her kids were used to eating.  Armed with the ability to read food labels and compare prices, she left the store that day not only with a bag of groceries, but the confidence to make informed decisions and change her life.

My experience as an AmeriCorps member thus far has filled me with a sense of gratitude and purpose that I could not have imagined before.  I look forward to the rest of my service, knowing that it will undoubtedly bring new challenges and opportunities for growth.

March 12, 2013 at 5:11 pm Leave a comment

Volunteers Needed Throughout the Holidays

We at Cooking Matters know how busy our volunteers are, especially around the holidays.  We understand that obligations to your loved ones, in addition to your professional obligations,  fill up a majority of your time.  Still, Cooking Matters continues to conduct classes throughout the November and December months.  Most likely due to our volunteers’ increasingly busy schedules at this time, we are in somewhat desperate need of your time.

We urge you to look at the upcoming class schedule, and although consistency is our priority, please contact Rebecca even if you know you will miss one, or even a few of the classes.

We value your time and effort.  If you can fit it in your busy schedule, please find the time to give back this holiday season in any way you can!

November 1, 2012 at 10:52 am Leave a comment

Cooking Matters Satellite Programming

Michigan State University Extension Districts

Did you know that Cooking Matters takes place not only in Southeast Michigan, but throughout the entire state? Yes, even the U.P.!

Since Cooking Matters partnered with Gleaners in 1995, the program has continued to expand.  In order to keep up with the demand for Cooking Matters, it became necessary to create satellites: offices throughout Michigan that coordinate classes within their communities.  With the help of our dedicated CM staff (cough, cough–Sarah Mills) and our satellite partners, our capacity for outreach has grown like wildfire over the past two years.

Here is an overview of who our satellites are and how much they have accomplished:

1.  Manistee Community Kitchen

  • 16 classes completed
  • 164 graduates

2. SEEDS

  • 7 classes completed
  • 63 graduates

3. Michigan Nutrition Network Partners

4. Michigan State University Extension

  • Includes 12 districts that, together, extend Cooking Mattersprogramming throughout the entire state!
  • 54 classes completed
  • 540 total graduates

5.  Henry Ford Health System Generation with Promise

  • 50 classes completed
  • 504 total graduates

Together, Cooking Matters Satellites throughout the state have completed over 139 classes and graduated over 1400 participants!

October 8, 2012 at 9:35 am Leave a comment

Goodbye Vani, You Will Be Missed!

 

As you may have heard, everyone’s favorite volunteer coordinator-Vani Sohikian- is leaving Cooking Matters.  Without a doubt, this qualifies as a grade-A bummer, but I can’t help but be proud of Vani and wish her well on her way.  Vani is known by Cooking Matters staff as an exceptionally hard worker and a true pleasure to have in the office.  To our volunteers, Vani is their warm welcome to the program, the go-to contact and a consistent reminder that their work really counts (and to sign up for classes).  It only takes a few minutes in one of Vani’s classes to see how much she really cares about this program and its participants.   Her ability to connect with and engage participants is something to be admired, and her impact here has been profound.  OK, enough praise- it will go to her head.  Let’s find out what the future holds for our friend and coworker!

Where is your new job and what will you be doing there?

The Institute for Population Health in Detroit.  It is replacing the Detroit Health Department, which is very exciting.  I will be working as a nutritionist for the WIC (women, infants and children) department.

What do you look forward to at your new job?

I look forward to working with the individuals who benefit from the services provided by the institute and learning more about public health services offered to Detroit citizens.

What was your favorite type of class?

Adults.  I like the older ladies.

Do you have a favorite CM recipe?

I have many.  I love the apple crisp and the southwestern black eyed pea and corn salad.  I also like the kid’s cucumber sandwiches and the peanut butter and banana pockets…

Favorite fruit? 

figs.

Favorite veggie?

Brussel sprouts!

Favorite memory?

It’s so hard to pick!  I have a few favorite moments. One of them is when one of my participants in Pontiac on the last day of class said that she had gone to the doctor that morning and her blood pressure, which had always been a problem, was completely normal because she was changing her diet.   Another favorite moment of mine was when I was helping Jake with a demo for kids, and we made the tuna boats, the kids were like, “this is the best thing I’ve EVER had!”.  It was funny because kids usually hate tuna!

What will you miss most about CM?

The staff! Also working with volunteers and learning new things all the time.  I will also miss those moments when you know you’re really getting through to participants.

Finish this sentence: Cooking Matters because:

We all have to eat!

Thank You Vani, for all your hard work.  You will be missed.

And don’t worry, she’ll be back to volunteer as soon as she is settled in her new job!

October 4, 2012 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

Eat Better, Eat Together with your family this October

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.

The Crockpot is an invaluable device for busy families.

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.”

October 1, 2012 at 9:20 am 2 comments

Shopping Matters teaches participants how to read food labels, use unit pricing

Volunteer nutrition educator Lindsey Snyder and her participants from Mercy Primary Care get ready to shop.

Mary Bailey, Cooking Matters for Adults participant at Mercy Primary Care, has her shopping routine down. She always has a list and makes sure to eat something before going to the store so she doesn’t shop hungry.

But even the savvy shopper picked up a few new tips and tricks after taking the grocery store tour with fellow Cooking Matters classmates as well as Shopping Matters participants on July 10 at Walmart in Sterling Heights.

“I was not really savvy with unit prices before,” she says.

While shopping, she said she compared the unit prices of the Great Value cooking spray vs. Crisco and realized Great Value was the better deal.

As a participant in the class, she also learned how to cook healthier. “I learned how to cook without a lot of salt and oils. Now I make my own seasonings.”

Her cart was full of whole foods, such as cantaloupe, cottage cheese, lemon and limes, squash and onions, brown rice and salmon in her cart. Using some of the planning skills taught in the previous lesson, she swapped out the broccoli and spinach that was on her list for the available and more budget-friendly squash.

Mary Bailey was already a savvy shopper but learned how to use unit prices to find the best bargains.

Another skill the tour aims to teach participants is reading labels. For Shopping Matters participant Jennifer Morris, the Detroiter learned to pay more attention to the products. She primarily eats a vegetarian diet and had her cart full of dried beans and veggies to make a meatless chili, she said. The idea to make chili came to her after walking around with her group. She also said the tour helped her make more informed choices about which foods to get.

Angela Davenport, who was in the Shopping Matters group, said the tour helped her make better choices.

“Before I was just grabbing what I saw … (the tour) was very good,” she said.

These ladies, along with about 10 other participants, were able to apply their newfound budgeting skills, thanks to a donation of $150 gift cards by the store.

Walmart in Sterling Heights donated to Cooking Matters Michigan $150 in gift cards for the participants’ $10 challenge.

“As a company, we’ve always had good relationships with Gleaners” and other community organizations, said store manager Rob Aquilina. He said each store works with specific agencies in their areas to give back to the community.

When asked if Walmart would do more tours with Shopping Matters, he said, “I’d love to be more involved and see what we can do.” He added Walmart is committed to the food bank, which aligns with one of the company’s three main values: fighting hunger, education and work force development.

July 13, 2012 at 10:49 am Leave a comment

Volunteer spotlight: A’Donna Fuller


“Giving back to the community through Cooking Matters has been the most rewarding thing I have done throughout my culinary career.”

Personal chef and Cooking Matters Michigan volunteer A’Donna Fuller prepares food for a client. Photo courtesy of mymarvelousimages.com.

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!

July 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm 4 comments

Volunteer spotlight: John Heikka

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!

Chef John celebrates Bennett Elementary students’ success during Cooking Matters for Kids graduation.

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.

Relaxing
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.

QUINOA-PILAF STYLE

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.

Chef’s Notes:

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.

June 11, 2012 at 8:37 am 2 comments

Volunteer spotlight: Janice Gardler

Meet Janice Gardler, a registered dietitian with an impressive resume full of a wide-ranging positions in the field. Also, check out her recipe for her Nana’s Pasta Fagioli soup.

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

INGREDIENTS

    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

DIRECTIONS
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.

May 11, 2012 at 8:30 am Leave a comment

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USDA Statement

This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. This work is supported in part by the Michigan Department of Human Services, under contract number ADMIN-10-99011. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Michigan Fitness Foundation or the Michigan Department of Human Services. In accordance with Federal law and USDA policy, these institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720- 6382 (TTY). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more contact the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline at (855) ASK-MICH. Space-Limited USDA/DHS/MNN Credit Statement This material was partially funded by the State of Michigan with federal funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by way of the Michigan Nutrition Network at the Michigan Fitness Foundation. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability. People who need help buying nutritious food for a better diet call the toll free Michigan Food Assistance Program Hotline: (855) ASK-MICH.

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